More Fallout from Littleton: South Carolina Lawmaker Urges Prayer in Schools

May 6, 1999 12:00 am

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COLUMBIA, SC — A South Carolina lawmaker who wants to put chaplains in the state’s public schools to conduct religious classes says the Colorado high school shootings make the time right, even if it means violating the constitutional separation of church and state, Associated Press reported.

“What can be more important than the safety and moral foundations of the child?” said Republican state Sen. Mike Fair. “Everybody is upset because of Columbine. While people are awake we need to talk to them before they go back to sleep.”

According to Associated Press, Fair’s proposed School Safety Act would apply to middle schools and high schools. Principals would select the chaplains, who would lead weekly 30-minute chapel periods, Fair said.

The idea met with opposition from the American Civil Liberties Union and some educators on May 3 before it was even introduced. It contradicts the First Amendment’s separation of church and state, said Steve Bates, Executive Director of the ACLU of South Carolina.

“What he’s doing is using the fear of violence in school as an excuse for violating the Constitution,” Bates said.

A Rock Hill school administrator said school boards and principals should not impose their views on the community.

“They’re basically making a value judgment for people who might not want that judgment,” William Gummerson, principal of Northwestern High School told AP.

The ACLU has received hundreds of complaints from parents and students who fear their rights are being stripped away as school administrators, law enforcement and the government overstepped their bounds in responding to the Littleton shootings.

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