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Alabama Republican proposes bill setting aside 15 minutes for daily prayer in public schools

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An Alabama lawmaker has proposed legislation that would allow public school teachers to lead students in a daily prayer.

State Rep. Steve Hurst (R) introduced the bill last month to allow teachers to read verbatim one of the opening prayers recited by chaplains or their guests before sessions of the U.S. Congress.

“If Congress can open with a prayer, and the state of Alabama Legislature can, I don’t see why schools can’t,” Hurst said.

This could take up to 15 minutes each day, according to House Bill 318.

Hurst said the quarter hour would not be wasted, because it would help students learn about history and civics.

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“They could read the prayer from the day war was declared in World War II (or) they could read the prayer the day after Sept. 11,” he said.

The Anniston Star found at least one Muslim invocation delivered before Congress in the past year and a 2007 Hindu invocation sparked protests from conservative Christian groups.

But most chaplains of the U.S. House and Senate have been protestant ministers, according to congressional records.

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A spokeswoman from the American Civil Liberties Union said religious practices and beliefs should be taught at home or at religious institutions.

“The Alabama Legislature can try to pass anything it wants, but our public schools must still abide by the United States Constitution,” said ACLU spokeswoman Susan Watson.

Hurst’s Tea Party challenger, Steve Dean, told the newspaper the proposal sounded “interesting” to him, but he couldn’t comment since he had just learned of the bill and hadn’t read it.

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The Democratic challenger, Stephanie Engle, said prayer was important to everyone, but she thought the measure didn’t properly address faith in the classroom.

“I think it would behoove everyone to have a course in comparative religions, but setting aside 15 minutes for a prepared prayer isn’t as constructive,” Engle said.

[Image: Cheerleader praying via Shutterstock]


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