A bill introduced by the chairman of the Indiana state Senate education committee would allow mandatory prayer in public schools.
Sen. Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn) has filed a bill that would give school districts the right to require recitation of the Lord's Prayer at the beginning of each day. Individual students would be allowed to refuse to pray if they or their parents objected.
Senate Bill 23 states that each Indiana school district should have the right to mandate prayer "in order that each student recognize the importance of spiritual development in establishing character and becoming a good citizen."
Although Republicans control both houses of the Indiana legislature and the governor's office, President Pro Tempore Sen. David Long (R) has sent the measure to the rules and legislative procedure committee, which the Indianapolis Star says is "often a burial ground for bills," in the belief that the proposed law is unconstitutional.
"It's a clear violation of the interpretation of the First Amendment by the United States Supreme Court," Sen. Long, who is an attorney, told the Star.
Andrew Seidel, an attorney with the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist and freethinkers' group, agreed with Long.
"This is so blatantly unconstitutional, it's amazing," Seidel told the Star. Seidel also said that adding an opt-out clause does not change the fact that the bill "entangles government with religion."
Seidel added that prayer is already voluntary in schools because students have the right to pray individually if they wish.
"The only purpose of this law is to encourage prayer out of students and to ostracize students who may not want to pray," he said.
Sen. Kruse is no stranger to religious-based controversy. Last year he raised eyebrows and ire by introducing a bill that would allow Christian creationism to be taught in public school science classes. The bill passed, but state House Speaker Rep. Brian Bosma, a Republican, vetoed it because of the legal costs that would have been incurred defending the highly controversial and scientifically dubious measure.