RALEIGH, N.C. -- The state House has passed a bill that gives students and teachers guidance on when they can pray in school, and how.
It's two-fold. Part of the bill clarifies students' rights to practice religion in school, but it also focuses on the rights of teachers, staff and coaches.
Right now, they're not allowed to take part in any school-related religious activity. For example, a football coach praying with his athletes, or a teacher taking part in an after-school bible study on campus.
Some state lawmakers, including Representative Marcus Brandon, worked to change that. "We also have to allow students to be able to express their religion freely." That's what the Greensboro lawmaker says this bill is all about.
The lawmaker is on the state's House education committee that advanced the bill. "It is a clarifying bill that we want to say that we respect the decisions and the rights of students to express their religion," said Brandon.
The bill also gives school staff members the ability to take part in student-led religious activities - something that's been a gray area before. "This clarifies yes they can, but they have to do it in a reasonable way so I think this is more clarifying than we've had before," said Brandon.
The ACLU of North Carolina is against the bill. Policy Director Sarah Preston released a statement: "The right of students to voluntarily express and practice their faith in public schools is already well-established and protected by the First Amendment. Some of this bill's unnecessary and confusing language could wrongly encourage public school personnel to takes sides in student-led religious activity, making students with different beliefs feel excluded or ostracized not only by their classmates, but also by their teachers and schools."
Many people on our Facebook page say religion should be kept out of school altogether, while others say it should be a choice. "I think that's great if it is a choice and if children are being advised that they have the choice with the teacher or whoever the coach is, I think that should be good," said Greensboro resident Miriam Scott.
"I think it's unfair for teachers to feel that they have to limit their practice because of state law, but I don't have an issue if it's a student-led prayer or a student-led discussion," added Ja'juan Gibson.
The legislation now returns to the Senate for a vote before it heads to Gov. Pat McCrory.