Bill aims to protect prayer by Georgia high school coaches

High school coaches would be allowed to participate in student-led prayers before sporting events and talk about religion with students, according to a bill introduced in the Georgia Senate on Monday.

The legislation, Senate Bill 361, comes in response to a complaint by an atheist group against East Coweta High School head coach John Small, who prayed with his players after a football game last fall. 

“Religious liberty is the bedrock of our nation,” said state Sen. Michael Williams, R-Cumming, the bill’s sponsor. “This is a much needed protection for Georgia faculty members and students who incorporate their religious beliefs into their daily lives.”

The January 26, 2018 edition of Georgia Legislative Week in Review with Mark Neisse, Maya Prabhu and the Phrase of the Week by James Salzer. Video by Erica A. Hernandez/AJC STAFF

Williams’ proposal also protects students from discrimination for expressing religious viewpoints in homework, artwork and religious clubs. 

In addition, the legislation sets aside a time for student speakers to talk about their religion or other topics before football games, designated athletic events, opening announcements for the school day and school assemblies.

The bill faces a difficult path forward. Williams is a Republican candidate for governor against Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, the Republican president of the Senate who can influence what legislation advances.

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