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Indiana lawmakers debate school prayer bill

(WISH Photo, File)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Religious protections might be coming to Indiana public school students, although some argue it’s already there.

From state testing to pre-kindergarten, education is a focal point of the 20-17 Indiana session. On Monday, it continued with a religious discussion.

“It’s not mandatory prayer, but it gives you an opportunity, if you want to pray, to have that opportunity,” Rep. John Bartlett (D – Indianapolis) said.

The House Education Committee discussed a school prayer proposal. It would allow public school students to include religion in homework, wear religious clothing, create a religious class and allow offended students to leave.

“It is my belief that school prayer may cause students to acknowledge a power greater than themselves on which they can rely for comfort and help in times of trouble,” Rev. David Greene said.

“I don’t know if it can change the total system in which we live in, but I believe it would bring some good consciousness with some divine intervention in our families and in our schools,” Rev. Wayne Moore said.

Opponents say religion is already acknowledged in many schools with a moment of silence.

“I saw this was coming up and I had a flashback to the 1950’s,” Morris Klapper said. “I thought we were over this. I am not against religion. I am not against praying, but it’s something you do before school, after school,” said Morris Klapper.

“We believe as a community that prayer is taught in our religious institutions,” Jewish Community Relations Council Government Affairs Director, David Sklar said. “It’s up to us as parents to make sure that our students, children receive that religious education as we see fit.”

It’s an education debate that could last for the next several weeks.

“Students’ voices are being silenced, and it’s time to take a stand,” Carmel resident, Mary Carmen Zakrajsek said. “I, as a parent, have the expectation that he should be able to go to school free from a religious education,” Sklar said.

The committee ran out of time for speakers, and will meet again Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. in room 156-B.

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