Florida Passes Law to Protect First Amendment Rights in Public Schools
TALLAHASSEE - Responding to the gross violation of free speech brought about by the ACLU in the Santa Rosa County School District (District), the Florida legislature passed a law that requires school districts to obtain the consent of staff and students before entering into any agreement that infringes upon or waives their First Amendment rights. The new law takes effect July 1.
The law (HB 31) reads as follows: "District school boards, administrative personnel, and instructional personnel are prohibited from taking affirmative action, including, but not limited to, the entry into any agreement, that infringes or waives the rights or freedoms afforded to instructional personnel, school staff, or students by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, in the absence of the express written consent of any individual whose constitutional rights would be impacted by such infringement or waiver."
This new law will prevent further situations like the one in Santa Rosa County, where school officials caved to the ACLU and agreed to sign a Consent Decree which prohibits religious expression, such as voluntary, student-initiated prayers or off-the-clock religious discussion among adults. A student was told he must say "Good Luck" instead of "God Bless;" staff testified in court they now hide in closets to pray; teachers cannot reply to emails from parents if the email from the parent contains "God bless" or other religious language; staff must censor private, after-school groups from engaging in religious expression or prayer; staff are forbidden to voluntarily participate in private, off-campus baccalaureate services; and much more. Liberty Counsel is currently litigating against the ACLU and the District to overturn the Consent Decree obtained by the ACLU.
Mathew Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: "Liberty Counsel will ask the Santa Rosa School District to request the court to reconsider the Consent Decree in light of this new law. Liberty Counsel will continue to press this case until the Consent Decree is set aside. Not only is the decree unconstitutional, it is also moot, since the ACLU student plaintiffs graduated three weeks before the order became final. This Consent Decree, drafted by the ACLU and agreed to by the Superintendent, is the most unconstitutional order I have ever read. It was written as though the First Amendment does not exist. It is only a matter of time before this Consent Decree is overturned."
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