This law is all but guaranteed to be both misinterpreted and fought over
Today, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill that would require a moment of silence for prayer in school. In what some will certainly consider a nod to evangelical movements both in Florida and across America, the Florida governor has positioned himself more in line with the religious right, both with this new piece of legislation and his unwavering support with the State of Israel.
The latter of the two has been a hot-button issue in recent weeks, as Israel and Hamas engaged in some bitter conflict in Gaza and the West Bank. It all began with Israeli police stormed a mosque in Jerusalem and ultra-nationalist Israelis held a rally in the Holy City.
In response to that, Hamas launched 1,000 rockets from Palestinian-held territory into Israel. And that’s when Israel struck back with airstrikes of its own. After weeks of fighting, the two sides finally brokered a ceasefire deal.
In America, political factions formed that supported each group in the violence, as could be expected in our highly polarized political environment.
And Governor DeSantis has stood firmly on the side of Israel, along with other Republicans and especially the Evangelicals.
This latest move, the signing of the bill that would mandate prayer in school, is just another step in the direction of state-approved religious practices. A large movement of conservative culture has huddled around bringing prayer back into schools and religion back into the lives of citizens, even if that means using the full force of the state to do so.
Democrats, on the other hand, see this as state overreach and forcing religion on children. This bill signing is all but guaranteed to be followed by a protracted legal battle in the courts.
The debate around prayer in schools has been around for as long as I've been alive, and probably even longer. Since the 1980s, as the Evangelical movement ramped up under then-president Ronald Reagan, there has been bitter fighting amongst the various religions of the United States and the non-believers or those who don't identify as any particular religion.
The Florida Governor took to South Florida to sign the bill at a Jewish Temple he visited. During the signing, Governor DeSantis denounced anti-Semitism and boasted his support of Israel, stating he stands by the Jewish people.
ABC News described his visit to Shul of Bal Harbour, a Jewish community center in Surfside, as having “the air of a campaign event.”
So what’s really in the law? Well, if you’re panicking that it’s going to force one particular religion down children’s throats, relax.
The law states that schools must set aside at least one minute of prayer per day for students to pray or meditate. Schools must give a minute of silence, not prayer led by teachers. It could be said that the bill mandates a moment of silence and we could leave it at that.
Governor DeSantis said, about the law, “We think it’s something that’s important, to be able to provide each student the ability to be able to reflect and be able to pray as they see fit.”
The law isn’t really all that partisan, nor is it particularly religious. One minute of silence is far removed from the idea of brainwashing children. But time will tell how the law will be spun by media outlets and received by Florida voters.