DESOTO COUNTY, MS (abc24.com) - Mississippi's top lawmakers are making a bold move to let students pray. A new bill before the state House is designed to promote prayer in school and make sure students can't be punished for bowing their heads.
Mississippi House Bill 1112 is called the "Schoolchildren's Religious Liberties Act." Parents we spoke with love the idea, but acknowledge it could be trouble.
"I wouldn't mind. I would be all for it," says Jessica Smitherman.
"Prayer's needed, much needed," adds Pheniqueski Mickens. "I totally agree. It should never have been taken out from the beginning."
Many Mississippians support prayer in school.
"I was raised that way. Prayer changes things," says Alberta Holiday.
HB1112 would make it legal for students to pray and express religious views.
"As a Christian I don't see any problem with it," says Earl Ton.
Though supportive, residents wonder if state lawmakers should be taking up the issue.
"It will open up a big bag of worms," Ton says.
"Everybody's not going to be happy," Mickens acknowledges.
"The title of bill is misleading," says Patrick Elliott, an attorney with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Elliott says prayer is already protected under the constitution through free speech. "This is trying to expand that into other areas."
The bill specifies students could express religious views in school work, and pray at morning announcements, football games and graduation.
Lawyers with Freedom From Religion think, if passed, the bill will have unintended consequences.
"The problem school districts will face is with how it's implemented in practice," Elliott tells abc24.com. "If younger students are being preached at by other students at events, parents will have a legitimate right to sue the school district. I think they very well could."
The bill was unanimously passed by the House Education Committee this week. It's now being debated in the House.