McAuliffe Vetoes School Prayer Bill - 8NEWS - WRIC | News Where You Live

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McAuliffe Vetoes School Prayer Bill

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) - Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed a bill Friday that would have given students the legal right to organized prayer in public schools.

Senate Bill 236 would have legally allowed kids to have religious gatherings before, during and after school or at sports games.

"At lunch I always [pray] because I know it's the right thing to do," says sixth grade student Carter Nash.  "My dad taught me that way."

The bill's veto doesn't mean students have to stop praying but on their own but if they want to gather together for a group prayer, teachers can prohibit it.

The Family Foundation says that creates confusion.

"Kids are left with uncertainty about what they can and cannot say about their faith," says Family Foundation Vice President Chris Freund. 

The Family Foundation argues that had McAuliffe signed the bill into law, it would have protected the religious rights of students.

"We just don't think these kids should be treated as second class citizens just because their viewpoint might be from a faith perspective," Freund says.

The ACLU of Virginia disagrees with the Family Foundation,.

"We are very encouraged by the governors veto," says ACLU Executive Director Claire Gastanaga. 

The ACLU argues the bill could have led to schools promoting religions.

"Kids who go to school are there not by their choice," Gastanaga says.  "It's compulsory and we don't think they should be subjected to religious indoctrination in the classroom."

In his veto statement, McAuliffe says a bill like this isn't needed and it "actually infringes on the students' right to be free from coercive prayer and religious messaging at both voluntary and required school events."

The veto could be overturned by the General Assembly but given the large party line vote during its initial passage, it's unlikely to happen.

Copyright 2014 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond

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