Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill requiring public schools in our state to develop policies under which students will be permitted to pray at sports events, school assemblies, and even over school intercom systems. Bill, HB 638, was passed under the guise of protecting students’ religious freedom; however, it is an effort to bypass Engel v. Vitale and Abington School District v. Schempp, returning to the days before 1962 when prayer in school was inescapable.

The law was written to bypass the prohibition on formal school-sanctioned prayer. It does so by permitting students to deliver public prayers as long as they are accompanied by some sort of disclaimer from the school. But students and teachers have always had the right to pray in school, and is commonly exercised in Mississippi. What they have not had the right to do is impose their religious views on others.

David Silverman, the president of American Atheistsreferred to the legislation as “an overt act of hostility against minority religious beliefs and atheists, disguised as religious freedom.” Implementing this law will further marginalize atheists and religious minorities.

American Civil Liberties UnionFreedom From Religion Foundation, and Americans United for Separation of Church and State are widely expected to fight this new legislation, which takes effect on July 1. These groups will need complaints in order to act, which include letters attempting to educate state officials on the law. It seems unlikely that school officials will give in to the pressure from these groups. This means that it might take the family of a child adversely affected by the law being willing to come forward as a plaintiff. Unfortunately, children will have to be harmed and complaints filed before real work can happen. 

interesting-fact:

Section 265 of the Constitution of the State of Mississippi declares that “No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office in this state.” - Source

interesting-fact:

Section 265 of the Constitution of the State of Mississippi declares that “No person who denies the existence of a Supreme Being shall hold any office in this state.” - Source

The owner of Mississippi’s sole abortion clinic says she will sue the state if her business can’t comply with a Senate sent House Bill 1390 that Gov. Phil Bryant said he would sign.

The bill requires doctors working at abortion clinics to be OB-GYN certified and have admitting privileges to a local hospital. Currently only one OB-GYN working at the clinic has admitting privileges because most hospitals will not grant the privileges to out-of-state physicians. Many Clinic doctors who have been stalked and threatened in Mississippi live out of state to protect their safety.

Kirby said he was not aware when he presented the bill that the doctors were already OB-GYN certified but argued the bill would ensure that that they always would be. Closing the clinic would resort push women to unsafe means, particularly poor women who cannot afford to travel out of state to visit an abortion clinic. Clinics close to Mississippi include those in Tuscaloosa, Ala.; Memphis, Tenn.; Mobile, Ala.; and New Orleans.

A judge could issue a temporary injunction on the law that would allow her clinic to stay open until the lawsuit is resolved.

Bryant opposes abortion rights and supported the “Personhood Amendment” that was defeated by Mississippi voters last year.

"It is critically important, I think, to make sure we’ve got a certified physician there for that very complicated procedure, and if a complication does occur, that they have admission privileges or rights to a local hospital," Bryant told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "So, I’m very excited about that. Look forward to signing it."