AUSTIN, Texas The State Board of Education on Nov. 9 unanimously passed a nonbinding resolution encouraging public schools to protect students who choose to pray.
The resolution was adopted on a voice vote with no discussion.
It reads that there has been “a national rekindling of expressions of faith and patriotism” after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and subsequent outbreaks of anthrax.
The resolution stated “evil forces have attempted to wreak fear in the hearts of all Americans and our young people are particularly vulnerable to these unsettling feelings.”
“Our nation has a long and rich heritage of seeking God in time of trouble.”
The resolution sponsored by Richard Watson, R-Gorman, asks that schools “protect the rights of students of faith to join with others in their school and community, as well as with millions of others throughout the state and nation in exercising their constitutional right of voluntary, noncoercive prayer.”
David Bradley, R-Beaumont, co-sponsor of the resolution, asked that the resolution be sent to each of the state’s 1,183 school districts.
The resolution carries no legal weight but is merely a suggestion to local schools by the elected state body.
Samantha Smoot, executive director of the watchdog group Texas Freedom Network, said the board was correct in reminding schools of students’ right to voluntarily pray in school.
“However, instead of simply expressing their support for voluntary prayer, the state board wrapped their resolution in language that makes clear their intent to officially sanction Christian prayer,” Smoot said.
School prayer has re-emerged as a hot topic in Texas.
The prayer issue surfaced in the Texas race for governor after Gov. Rick Perry joined in a Christian prayer at a student assembly Oct. 18 at Palestine Middle School in East Texas. Perry later said he thought prayer should be permitted in public schools.
Democratic challenger Tony Sanchez has said he supported a mandatory moment of silence in schools. Students should be allowed to choose, but not be forced, to pray, he has said.