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School prayer bill passes TN House

11:39 PM, Mar 1, 2012   |    comments
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A bill to allow teachers and coaches the right to pray with their students in religious activities on school grounds passed the Tennessee House Thursday.

Lawmakers voted in favor of House Bill 3266 by Rep. Phillip Johnson, R-Pegram, 93 to 0.

Read: TN House Bill 3266

The legislation would allow teachers and coaches to participate in certain activities like "See You at the Pole" or team prayer at sporting events.

A companion bill, SB3060 awaits vote in the Tennessee Senate.

Hedy Weinberg, Executive Director of the ACLU of Tennessee, released a statement on the bill.  She said, "We like to recognize that Sunday schools are not public schools.

However, the bill has supporters in East Tennessee, especially in Kingston.

In 2000, Roane County High School learned it could no longer recite prayers before football games over the school's PA system thanks to a US Supreme Court ruling.  In the past, students would approach former Roane County High School Principal Jody McLoud curious if they could use the pregame period to pray.

McLoud said he believes people of all backgrounds and religions should be able to express themselves in a public setting if they want to.

"You do not, in any sense, ever make your flame brighter by putting someone's out," he said.  "And, sad to say, a lot of times that's what we try to do."

In September 2000, McLoud gave a speech on prayer over the school's PA system following the US Supreme Court's ruling.  He questioned aloud to the football crowd below him, why students and teachers could discuss abortion and safe sex in school, but not pray.

Read Jody McLoud's Speech 

His speech soon went viral and attracted attention from all across the country.  Former Congressmen Zach Wamp met with McLoud after he spoke at the football game.  Congressman John Duncan Jr. even read the prayer aloud on the floor of the U.S. Capitol.

Despite the attention, McLoud said he never understood why high school prayer became a problem in the first place.

"I was somewhat frustrated by the fact that it had become an issue," he said.

Johnson's bill would not pertain to situations like McLoud's, according to the representative from Pegram.  He told 10News it would need another amendment to address prayer over P.A. systems.

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