SOUTH BEND TRIBUNE

Every legislative session features its share of measures that aren’t as carefully considered as they should be as well as those based on divisive social issues that are sure to provoke.

House Bill 1024 is both.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. John Bartlett, D–Indianapolis, states that students may pray, wear religious attire and jewelry and engage in religious activities before, during and after the school day. According to Bartlett, school prayer would not be mandatory, but the law would protect students who want the opportunity to pray and ensure time is provided for students to express their beliefs.

The proposal requires school districts to adopt a policy allowing for a “limited public forum” for prayer at school events such as sports games or assemblies.

But some lawmakers and advocates are understandably questioning how students of minority religions would be affected by the bill. And how non-Christian requests to pray would be received.

“What if a group of Muslim students wanted to pray right in that ceremony? How would that have been accepted — or would it have caused an outcry?” Sen. Mark Stoops, D-Bloomington, said.

That’s a valid concern. Some are also questioning whether this bill is needed, saying that religion is already acknowledged in most schools with a moment of silence and that many of the protections the bill is fighting for are already protected by the First Amendment.

All things considered, this is just the sort of social issue that Republican lawmakers in control at the Statehouse had vowed to avoid this session. They did so for good reason: given the weighty topics that demand attention, including drafting a two-year budget and finding a fix for the state’s long-term road funding problem, delving into such matters often becomes a distraction. A distraction that lawmakers — and the Hoosiers who sent them to Indianapolis to address the pressing issues facing the state — cannot afford.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.