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Florida group visits Tallahassee in hopes of putting prayer in schools

Posted at 5:26 PM, Nov 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-05 17:48:06-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — A group from Jacksonville made their way to Tallahassee Thursday in a push to put prayer back in school.

It's been more than 50 years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against allowing schools to sponsor prayer, and Jacksonville's Felicia Townes is on a mission to change that ruling.

Townes visited Tallahassee Thursday to register to gather petitions supporting prayer in schools. She says she believes the emotional benefit of prayer in schools can help solve behavioral and mental health problems.

"We see a rise in bullying and suicidal thoughts without prayer, and so we believe that prayer goes back into the school," said Townes. "We believe that it will eradicate all bullying, all depression."

Her son, 11th-grader Michael, supports her cause, saying school "feels disappointed and lifeless without prayer."

The U.S. Supreme Court declared school-sponsored prayer unconstitutional in 1962.

Some fear that the separation of church and state could now be overturned with newly appointed Justice Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court bench.

In 2017, Barrett praised the view from Justice Antonin Scalia that a Supreme Court decision prohibiting prayers at public school graduations was wrongly decided.

If Townes gets the change she's hoping for, and children could pray in school from kindergarten to commencement.

"Children are in school five days a week, anywhere from six, seven, eight hours a day," Townes said. "Throughout the day, have words of affirmation, words of confirmation to let our young people know, our children know that they are somebody, only through prayer."

Townes will be seeking petition signatures from across the state.

According to a clause in the First Amendment, public schools are prohibited from "encouraging students to practice religion as well as from restricting them from practicing religion."