Mark Cohen — a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives — has authored a memorandum concerning a prospective resolution which will declare June 2013 as “Public School Religious Freedom Month” in Pennsylvania.
The memorandum includes the following:
In the near future, I plan to introduce a resolution designating June 2013 as “Public School Religious Freedom Month” in Pennsylvania.
This resolution recognizes the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in School District of Abington Township, Pennsylvania v. Schempp handed down on June 17, 1963, which struck down public school-sponsored Bible reading and prayer as unconstitutional. You may recall that Pennsylvania schools were required by law to provide prayer even though it often conflicted with the personal religious perspectives of nonbelievers, agnostics, atheists and believers of many different faiths. School-sponsored Bible reading and prayer also violated the First Amendment of the United States Constitution providing for separation of religion and government.
We must remember the importance of the First Amendment and the individual rights of others to prevent regression and repeat these actions in the future. Please join me in co-sponsoring this important resolution.
This prospective legislation — affirming the secular nature of public schools — is something advocates of church/state separation, both religious and non-religious, can stand behind. The language contained within the memorandum focuses on the fact that public school-sponsored Bible reading and prayer have been deemed unconstitutional. Also recognized is the diversity of opinions concerning religious belief within public school students.
Concluding the resolution, Rep. Cohen recognizes the importance of Pennsylvanians’ rights, including those found within the First Amendment, so that regression — eroding of rights and violations of the Establishment Clause — may be prevented. Will members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives heed Cohen’s clarion call and join him in co-sponsoring a “Public School Religious Freedom Month” resolution?
Rep. Cohen’s proposed resolution is a welcome change when considering recent legislation passed by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives including The Year of the Bible, Prayer Month, The Year of Religious Diversity, an attempt to remove anonymity from individuals engaging in lawsuits seeking to uphold the separation of church and state, National Fast Day, and American Religious History Week. Might the tides be turning?