A committee in the Virginia legislature has approved a measure to amend its bill of rights to allow prayer in public buildings and prevent religious discrimination. The measure would also allow students to opt out of assignments conflicting with their religious beliefs.
The amendment reads as follows:
That the Commonwealth shall not coerce any person to participate in any prayer or other religious activity, but shall accommodate the right of any person to pray individually or corporately on public property so long as such prayer does not result in disturbance of the peace or disruption of a public meeting or assembly or other public business; that citizens as well as elected officials and employees of the Commonwealth and its political subdivisions shall have the right to pray on government premises and public property so long as such prayers abide within the same parameters placed upon any other free speech under similar circumstances; that the General Assembly and the governing bodies of political subdivisions may extend to ministers, clergypersons, and other individuals the privilege to offer invocations or other prayers at meetings or sessions of the General Assembly or governing bodies; that students in public schools may express their beliefs about religion in written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their work; that no student in public schools shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his religious beliefs; that the Commonwealth shall ensure public school students their right to free exercise of religious expression without interference, as long as such prayer or other expression is private and voluntary, whether individually or corporately, and in a manner that is not disruptive and as long as such prayers or expressions abide within the same parameters placed upon any other free speech under similar circumstances; and, to emphasize the right to free exercise of religious expression, that all free public schools receiving state appropriations shall display, in a conspicuous and legible manner, the text of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States; but this section shall not be construed to excuse acts of licentiousness or justify practices inconsistent with the good order, peace, or safety of the Commonwealth or with the rights of others. The Attorney General is authorized to advise any officer of the Commonwealth and any local official with respect to the effect of these guarantees and shall defend any suit brought against such officers or officials on account of their official actions taken within the scope of that advice.
If passed, this amendment would protect Virginians from discrimination for their religious beliefs.
You can read the proposed amendment in context with Virginia’s existing amendments on religious freedom here.