|I am preparing to re-introduce legislation that will establish the Student Religious Liberties Act (former HB 555).
The Constitutions of the United States and Pennsylvania protect the religious freedom of individuals, including school students. However, many students attending public schools, as well as their families, fear that a student’s engaging in religious speech or activities will subject the student to discrimination, such as a denial of the privilege of speaking at a school-sponsored event.
My legislation creating the Student Religious Liberties Act will provide certain protections to students attending public schools, including traditional school districts, charter and cyber charter schools, area vocational-technical schools and intermediate units. More specifically, my bill will:
By establishing these basic protections for school students, my bill will help to ensure that students may engage in speech and activities with a religious perspective without fear of discrimination or penalties.
- Prohibit a public school entity from discriminating against a student who engages in the voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint on an otherwise permissible subject.
- Discriminate against a student who expresses religious beliefs in homework, artwork and other written and oral assignments.
- Allow a student to pray or engage in religious activity or religious expression before, during and after the school day in the same manner and to the same extent as a student may engage in secular activities or expression.
- Allow a student to organize a religious gathering before, during and after the school day to the same extent as a student may organize a secular gathering.
- Require a public school entity to provide a religious group the same access to school facilities and property for assembling or advertising events as is provided to secular groups.
- Allow a student to wear clothing, accessories and jewelry displaying a religious symbol or message in the same manner and to the same extent that a student may wear clothing, accessories and jewelry that display a secular message or symbol.
- Prohibit a public school entity from discriminating against a student speaker based on the student’s voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint on an otherwise permissible subject.
- Require the Department of Education to develop a model policy that is consistent with the act, and further require each public school entity to adopt the model policy or to adopt its own policy for the protection of student religious liberties that is consistent with the act.
- Preserve a public school entity’s authority to maintain order and discipline on its school campus and protect the safety of school students, employees and visitors.
Previous Co-sponsors: Knowles, Cox, Saylor, Staats, Zimmerman, B. Miller, Metcalfe, Lewis, Ryan, Bernstine, Hershey and Jones