Speakers focus on House Bill 660, reinstating prayer

House Bill No. 660 by Katrina Jackson, which re-introduced school prayer and the pledge of allegiance in Louisiana schools, was the main topic of discussion at the town hall meeting held by the Morehouse Parish School System on Friday night. included Mayor Arthur Jones, the Rev. Jim Ingram, President of Morehouse Parish School Board Tameka Ferrell and Morehouse Parish School Board Superintendent Dr. George Noflin Jr. “We are excited to have open prayer back in schools,” Ferrell said. The law requires the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to establish a policy and develop procedures to allow public school students to participate in the recitation of the Lord's Prayer and the "Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag" at the commencement of each school day. Such policy and procedures shall include but not be limited to provisions for the following: 1.Student participation in the recitation of the prayer and pledge shall be voluntary. 2.Students shall be reminded that the Lord's Prayer is the prayer that the pilgrim fathers recited when they came to America in search for freedom. 3.Students shall be informed that these exercises are not meant to influence an individual's personal religious beliefs in any manner. 4.The recitations shall be conducted so that students learn of America's great freedoms, including the freedom of religion symbolized by the recitation of the Lord's Prayer. The bill requires BESE to develop a program of instruction for public schools with regard to the pilgrim fathers and a program with regard to the flag of the United States of America, the latter to include instruction in etiquette, the correct use and display of the flag and other patriotic exercises as may be related. It also permits local school boards to purchase or otherwise acquire and provide for display in each classroom copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address and other documents the local board deems significant to the history of Louisiana and the U.S. The bill provides that law shall apply only to public schools located in a school district where the matters proposed in proposed law have been approved by at least 2/3 of the qualified electors voting on the proposition in the district. Authorizes school boards to provide for putting a proposition on the ballot containing the matters proposed in the law. Provides that upon such approval, the local superintendent of the school district shall provide notification and verification of such approval to BESE. “The state senate unanimously voted this bill in that was put forth by Katrina Jackson,” Noflin said. “Participation is voluntary and children are to be informed that this is not to influence them to join any organizations, such as Baptist or Methodist.”