TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (NSF) – A proposal that could allow high schools to offer prayers over public-address systems before athletic championship games is headed to the full Florida House.
The measure (HB 1027) comes amid a long-running legal battle over a decision by the Florida High School Athletic Association in 2016 to block Cambridge Christian School of Tampa from offering a prayer over the public-address system before a football championship game at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium.
The school filed a still-pending federal lawsuit that contends the decision violated its First Amendment rights. The athletic association has argued that allowing a prayer over the loudspeaker would have been viewed as “government speech.”
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Webster Barnaby, R-Deltona, was approved Wednesday by the House Education & Employment Committee in a 15-6 vote after little discussion.
The bill would require allowing schools to offer up to two-minute remarks over public-address systems. The athletic association could not control the content of the remarks.
“This bill is necessary because nothing is codified in state law that would allow this to proceed,” Barnaby told the committee.
The vote positioned the bill to be considered by the full House. A Senate version (SB 880), sponsored by Sen. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, was scheduled to be taken up by the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday but was postponed.
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