Fields: God Please Deliver Me From The Legislature


There are two kinds of people who say we need new laws to protect prayer in public school: idiots and liars.

It’s not clear whether Democratic Florida Senator Gary Siplin of Orlando and Republican State Rep. Charlie Van Zant of Palatka are the former or the latter.

Maybe both?

Gary Siplin, Democrat Backing School Prayer

I say this because they have proposed fixing a problem that does not exist. Further, they propose to do it in a completely unconstitutional fashion. The relevant part of their bill, HB 317, says:

Section 1. Any district school board may adopt a resolution allowing the use of an inspirational message including prayers of invocation or benediction, at secondary school commencement exercises or any other noncompulsory student assembly. The resolution must provide that:

(1) The use of a prayer of invocation or benediction is at the discretion of the student government.

(2) All prayers of invocation or benediction will be given by student volunteers.

(3) All prayers of invocation or benediction will be nonsectarian and nonproselytizing in nature.

(4) School personnel may not participate in, or otherwise influence any student in, the determination of whether to use prayers of invocation or benediction.

Let me make it simple; there is not now nor has there ever been a law prohibiting prayer in public schools.

No judge has ever enjoined students from praying in school.

Teachers, principals and school boards who have stupidly tried to block student initiated prayer have uniformly been shot down…usually by a student represented by—get this—the ACLU!

The legal principle is simple: students can pray or not pray at their own choice.  The government and that includes principals, teachers, school boards, student governments, etc., may not promote it.  They may not restrict it unless it is clearly disturbing the functioning of the school. [I suspect repeatedly Tebowing or breaking out into a chorus Jesus Be a Fence Around Me during the SAT exam are problematic.]

Student initiated prayer is not prohibited.  If the Valedictorian wants to thank Jesus, Horus or Christopher Hitchens for the 5.0 GPA, he or she is protected by “the free exercise “clause of The First Amendment.

While at UF, Tim Tebow wore bible references on his face.  As long as it was his idea he is protected.

Given an inch with prayer, government will take a mile.  It took the Supreme Court in Engle v Vitale (1962) to overturn the government written and approved prayer, known as The Regent’s Prayer, that New York required to be read in every class every day.

Now these two yahoos and their supporters want to leave religion in school up to the Student Council to select the prayer giver and the prayer.

Republican Charlie Van Zant Wants Prayer, Too


And what are the chances that a Muslim, Jew, atheist, Satanist, Wiccan, Hindu, etc. would ever get picked north of Palm Beach.

As for content, ask a hundred people to approve a “nonsectarian, non-proselytizing  ” prayer and I bet you get at least fifty different answers.  For the Christian Fundamentalists “nonsectarian non-proselytizing” means any prayer that uses Jesus’s name less than five times.

Let me also add that there no less than 25 versus in the Bible that denounce those who, like Siplin, Van Zant and Tebow, feel the need to pray in public.  They are seen by many as hypocrites and phony-baloneys.

HB 317 solves a problem that does not exist and in the course of this unneeded solution creates a thousand new problems.

The only winners will be the lawyers.

Let me think that over for a second…. Ummh, … business is a bit slow, so maybe it’s not such a bad idea after all.

5 Responses to “Fields: God Please Deliver Me From The Legislature”

  1. Dean Ledbetter says:

    Whether or not these fellows are sincere in their efforts, the main beneficiary of such a bill are the politicians in district where Bible Waving Fundamentalists are popular. Is that a proper expression of one’s faith? According to the first amendment it is. But My real problem with the whole thing is the fact that God doesn’t need a law to show up. He just does. Sometimes in the most unexpected ways.

  2. Woody72 says:


    I think the only time our government and Conservative Christians should come together is when the fire department shows up to put the cross out.

  3. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    I remember years ago someone asked me what was wrong with prayer. We were talking about prayer in school, but it might as well have been applied in any public setting. I said nothing’s wrong with it. It’s just that when you discuss which prayer that the blood starts to flow.

    I also remember, speaking of the First Amendment, when Sam Fields was involved with the group pushing the billion dollar sales tax increase the school district wanted. They were meeting and a reporter from Florida Trend got wind of it and attended. The group was then subject to the Sunshine Law. According to the story in the magazine, Sam wasn’t happy discussing campaign strategy with a reporter there. He asked then-associate superintendent Ray de la Feuilliez if he couldn’t throw him (the reporter) out the window. Sam wanted to keep the meetings private, so he formed a PAC. They also wanted to keep the election private so few voters would show up.They lost the election 71-29.

    FROM BUDDY: That reporter wasn’t with Florida Trend. I believe it was me!
    I was the only one covering the so-called pro-tax Blue Ribbon Committee full-time. I remember the meeting that Fields made the comments, although after 15 years I wouldn’t swear to it in court.
    As I recall, after a lot of discussion including Fields’ comments, the decision was made to close the meetings to the public and media, which was really only me. Two days later after negative publicity supplied by yours truly and the editorial page, the committee relented. That’s how I remember it.
    Maybe Fields has other recollections.
    This is a good example of why eyewitness testimony, especially after a long period of time, is the worst testimony. Charlotte, who was a vital member of the penny sales tax for education debate, remembers it one way. I remember it another way.
    Bottom line: The sales tax was defeated. Charlotte had a lot to do with that and she was right. At the time — and probably to this day — there was no accountability and a lot of misspending by the School Board. She saw this long before Grand Juries and newspaper editorial boards.

  4. ed foley says:

    I seem to remember you limping around on a crutch about that time wearing an eye patch and muttering something about Sam but I could be wrong. In any case the moral is: ‘Don’t mess with Sam.”

  5. Charlotte Greenbarg says:

    Buddy, thank you for the kind words to an old war horse. You did cover that extravaganza, of course. I remember that you created the name for Art Kennedy,James Sparks and myself: “The Gang of Three.”

    The S-S editorial board ignored their own reporter (you) who was doing a great job exposing them and editorialized in favor of the tax.

    I do have the Florida Trend magazine issue (Sept. 1995) with the cover-featured piece “How Big Money Buys a School Board.” David Poppe was the FL Trend reporter who wrote the piece and included what Fields said. I used that magazine in a Channel 10 editorial reply (they allowed people then to do that without cost) to make my points.

    The meeting you attended was the one a few weeks later, when the black community told them they may not support the tax because over the way the 1987 bond issue money was spent. Poppe wrote in FL Trend: “The marketing subcommittee was aghast–not at the warning, but at the presence of a local newspaper reporter.” That was you, Buddy!

    You both covered it, as it turns out.

    I would swear to it in court.

    But didn’t we have a great time educating the public during that campaign as well as ongoing?