IFAS | Freedom Writer | September 1995 | equality.html

Conservatives push religious-equality amendment

Religious Right groups are urging Congress to add a so-called "Religious Equality Amendment" to the U.S. Constitution. Broad-based, the amendment would allow student-led prayers over school public address systems, preaching from the Bible at graduations, the teaching of "creation science," and tax monies for private religious schools. Section 3 of the amendment would assure that any activities initiated as a result of the amendment could not be construed as violating the constitutionally mandated separation between church and state.

Students are currently allowed to practice silent prayer, to pray aloud among themselves, and conduct after-school Bible clubs. What the proposed amendment calls for are special exemptions from the guidelines established in the U.S. Constitution, specifically, the First Amendment, which already guarantees religious freedom.

An early version of the proposed amendment reads:

Section 1. Neither the United States nor any State shall abridge the freedom of any person or group, including students in public schools, to engage in prayer or other religious expression in circumstances in which expression of a non-religious character would be permitted; nor deny benefits to or otherwise discriminate against any person or group on account of the religious character of their speech,ideas, motivations or identify.

Section 2. Nothing in the Constitution shall be construed to forbid the United States or any State to give public or ceremonial acknowledgement to the religious heritage, beliefs, or traditions of its people.

Section 3. The exercise, by the people, of any freedoms under the First Amendment or under this Amendment shall not constitute an establishment of religion.

Before an amendment becomes part of the Constitution it must receive the support of two-thirds of the House and Senate, and be ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures.

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.