The bill (HB 529), sponsored by Palm Bay Republican Rep. Randy Fine, would require teachers to hold a one- to two-minute moment of silence each day during first period class in public schools. The bill would also prohibit teachers from making suggestions about the moment of silence. Rather, it encourages teachers to discuss the moment with parents or guardians as to how the student can best utilize the moment.
The measure would not apply to private or charter schools.
His Facebook post was met with some praise and harsh criticism from followers, one calling it a bait and switch.
A handful of lawmakers voiced opposition to the legislation, sharing concerns that it may cross a line between church and state, while also making children of different faiths feel uncomfortable.
Sen. Lori Berman, of Palm Beach, spoke of her experience as one of eight Jewish children in her elementary school, saying that she “was often put in uncomfortable situations.”
“I also want us all to think about what could happen in a moment of silence,” Berman said. “Could children take out rosaries and start doing the sign of the cross, and other children feel uncomfortable? Could a child take out a prayer rug, and start using the prayer rug, and with the other children, feel uncomfortable.”
Berman, who voted against the bill, called the effort “misguided.”
“We know that there can be unintended consequences of students who are going to be in situations where they can’t leave, and yet, they are vulnerable and ostracized for not participating,” she said.
Senate Democratic Leader Gary Farmer, who also voted no on the measure, said while he supports the concept, he found it was conflicting with the separation of church and state.
“It would be a good thing if we could all take a moment of silence every day and reflect and meditate a little bit on things that are important to us,” Farmer said. “When you do this in a public school setting, it puts at jeopardy that separation of church and state, and it can lead to a situation where children are put in an uncomfortable situation.”
Speaking to a House committee in March, Fine said the moment is about more than religion.
“Every child can benefit from a time, whether you’re Jewish or Christian or you don’t believe in God at all, every child will benefit from this time to be centered before the beginning of the day,” Fine said.