A Republican state lawmaker has prefiled a bill for the 2018 General Assembly that would mandate that the governor annually proclaim the last Wednesday in September as ‘A Day of Prayer for Kentucky’s Students.’
State Rep. Regina Huff’s legislation says the Governor shall “call upon the citizens of the state, in accordance with their own faith and consciences, to pray, meditate, or otherwise reflect upon the students of this state as well as their teachers, administrators, and schools.”
Huff, R- Williamsburg, said in an interview that the last Wednesday in September is generally the date when schools across the nation have student initiated prayer events called ‘See You at the Pole’, in which students gather to pray at their campus flag pole before the school day begins.
The legislation, Huff said, “doesn’t require students to pray.” But she said, “In my opinion, in prayer there is hope.”
ACLU. org, the national American Civil Liberties Union website, specifically says the See You at the Pole event is permissible as long as school officials are not involved. “Student participation in before- or after-school events, such as ‘see you at the pole,’ is permissible,” the website said. “School officials, acting in an official capacity, may neither discourage nor encourage participation in such an event,” the website said.
Michael Aldridge, the executive director of the ACLU in Kentucky, said Friday he had not yet reviewed Huff’s legislation, entitled BR195.
Staff in Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s office didn’t immediately comment on the proposed legislation Friday. Earlier this month, in a Facebook video, Bevin encouraged students in Kentucky to bring their Bibles to school for a student-led initiative called “Bring Your Bible to School Day.”
In September 2016, Bevin declared a statewide Day of Prayer Over Students for “See You at the Pole Day.”.
“We just wanted to put that in statute,” Huff said. “It’s not teacher led, its all student led. The students are the ones that initiate and conduct the unity of prayer.”
Tim Bargo, who is executive director of First Priority Tri-County, a campus ministry in Knox, Laurel and Whitley counties, said he requested that the governor sign the proclamations in the past and asked Huff if she would propose the legislation.
“We’re not trying to have the government make anybody go or even endorse a particular religion,” said Bargo. “
Tennessee passed legislation proclaiming the first weekend of August each year as the statewide Weekend of Prayer Over Students Across Tennessee. The legislation has given that event “more credibility,” said Haley Wherry, executive director of First Priority Blue Ridge in Tennessee.