Governor Rick Perry today signed into law House Bill 3678, the Religious Viewpoint Anti-Discrimination Act. HB 3678 clarifies a student's right to religious expression in school and creates a model policy for district adoption.
"Education is about open-mindedness and learning from one another's thoughts and philosophies," said Perry. "Therefore we cannot - and should not - shield or discourage our children from expressing religious views in school. Stifling discussion in order to appease a secular-only environment will prevent students from growing both academically and personally."
Though the United States Supreme Court holds religious discussion in schools permissible, some Texas schools have been misapplying the law and restricting student's legal expression. This may be due to outdated school policy or an unintended consequence of efforts to promote a neutral learning environment.
HB 3678 requires school districts to adopt and implement a policy establishing a limited public forum for student speakers at school events. The bill provides a model policy that districts may directly adopt or use for reference.
Policies must contain language which:
* Protects a student from being punished due to expressing a religious viewpoint verbally or in a class assignment
* Creates guidelines for student speakers at graduation ceremonies and other school-wide events
* Allows students to organize religious groups and activities
HB 3678 takes effect September 1, 2007.
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