An annual day of prayer for Kentucky’s students at school would become state law under a bill passed Thursday in the House.
But Amber Duke, a spokeswoman for ACLU Kentucky told the Herald-Leader Friday that if the bill passes the Senate and is signed into law, “it should be made clear to our public schools that they should not be in the business of endorsing religious practices in violation of students’ constitutional rights.”
“The content of the bill doesn’t mandate prayer, but as we’ve seen time and time again in the Commonwealth when it comes to religion and schools, what is intended by the General Assembly can be lost in translation when it reaches the local school level,” Duke said.
House Bill 40 sponsor Rep. Regina Huff, R-Williamsburg, said the annual prayer event has been proclaimed by Kentucky’s governor the past two years. HB 40 would designate the last Wednesday of September each year as “A Day of Prayer for Kentucky’s Students” by law, and require the governor to issue an annual proclamation for the event, an LRC statement said.
Huff said in the statement that HB 40 is respectful of all faiths by asking that Kentuckians spend the day praying, meditating or reflecting “in accordance with their own faith and consciences.” Students would be allowed to participate in the event at school before the start of the instructional day.
“Their event at school will be student-initiated and conducted, and always before the start of the school day,” Huff said.
“Given all that our students are facing … Our students need to know that we are standing with them,” she said.
The Kentucky event would be part of a global prayer initiative that Huff said would be held the same day.
The idea for HB 40 was raised by students in Huff’s district and others who she said “want to know that we are all united in this effort and that, on that particular day each year, we will be united with them.”
HB 40 passed 83-5 and now goes to the Senate for its consideration.
“The ACLU of Kentucky didn’t spend much time reviewing this bill,” said Duke, “and the Kentucky General Assembly shouldn’t have either.”
“There are a number of special days for remembrance and reflection in our Commonwealth that are recognized without being official enshrined in our KRS,” she said.