Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Indiana Legislature Passes Law Protecting Student Religious Expression In Schools

After final passage, yesterday the Indiana legislature sent HB 1024 (full text) to Gov. Eric Holcomb for his signature.  The bill authorizes public high schools to offer an elective course surveying religions of the world. The course must include historical, cultural and literary study, and must be "neutral, objective and balanced."  In a separate section, the Act prohibits public schools from discriminating against a student or the student's parent on the basis of religious viewpoint or religious expression. It provides that students may express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments, which are to be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance.

The Act provides that public school students may pray or engage in religious activities or religious expressions before, during, and after the school day in the same manner and to the same extent that students may engage in nonreligious activities or expression. They may wear wear clothing, accessories, and jewelry that display religious messages or religious symbols in the same manner and to the same extent that other types of clothing, accessories, and jewelry that display messages or symbols are permitted.Religious groups are to be given the same access to school facilities as other non-curricular groups. Liberty Counsel issued a press release announcing the passage of the legislation.