TN bill to allow student religious expression passes House - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

TN bill to allow student religious expression passes House

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

Tennessee lawmakers are taking up a piece of legislation that would allow students to express their religious beliefs on school assignments without facing discrimination from school officials. It's a topic garnering a lot of discussion with some saying it's a very important issue and others saying it's not needed.

Republican Representative Courtney Rogers says she proposed the legislation after a 10-year-old Tennessee student was instructed by her teacher she couldn't write about God in her assignment about the person she most admires. Rogers says the bill would protect students from that type of discrimination. It's gathering a lot of public attention as it moves through the General Assembly.

Religion in schools is a topic that stirs up strong opinions and even more confusion on what's allowed and what's not.

"Outside groups sometimes come in and try to challenge students on their liberties and their freedoms. A bill like this could help clarify that," Fellowship of Christian Athletes Area Director Jay Fowler said.

The bill went to the state House floor Monday. It allows students to openly discuss their religious beliefs on homework assignments, art projects, and oral presentations, without backlash from the school or teachers.

It passed the house 90-2. It's in cooperation with the Tennessee Student Religious Liberty Act of 1997. Some say this new bill isn't needed, including several Channel 3 Facebook friends like Karen Campbell. Who wrote, "No, I think someone is just trying to make a "mountain out of a mole hill". It didn't need a "bill" for hundreds of year. Why now just to pacify a hand full of people looking for attention. Politicians will try to push anything that will make them individually look good to the voters."

Others argue, like Billy Massingale argue, "it shouldn't be {needed}, but sadly it is."

Some, like local mom Heather Keef, say it sure couldn't hurt.

"I just think it's important that people can freely talk about what they believe no matter where they go," Heather Keef said.

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes already does what part of this new bill includes, which is students organizing religious gatherings among themselves.  

"Think it's really just bringing some clarity to rights I feel students have already had," Fowler said.

The bill is on Wednesday's calendar for the Senate Education Committee. If it passes there, the Senate still has to vote on it.

A different religion in schools bill recently passed the Senate and is being weighed in the House. It's to shield schools from lawsuits for allowing religious displays, like during winter holidays, as long as more than one faith is represented.

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