Bartlett plan to secure religious civil liberties in Indiana schools heads to governor

April 13, 2017 John Bartlett

INDIANAPOLIS – Legislation authored by State Rep. John Bartlett (D-Indianapolis) that would confirm religious civil liberties for students in Indiana schools is on its way to Gov. Eric Holcomb for final approval.

Indiana House members today concurred with changes made to House Bill 1024 by the state Senate, paving the way for action by the governor.

“I believe passage of this legislation is needed in order to give our children a chance to appreciate and better explore some of the traditional values that I feel have shaped this country,” Bartlett said. “I simply want them to have the opportunity to express their faith at school without fear of being stopped. It does not mandate prayer. It just allows students who want to pray the chance to do exactly that.”

The measure contains several provisions of protection:

  • Students will have the chance to express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral school assignments.
  • Public school students may be able to pray or engage in religious expression or religious activities before, during or after the school day.
  • Public school students may wear clothing, accessories, and jewelry that displays religious messages or symbols.

“Many believe these freedoms are already available for children who attend our schools,” Bartlett noted.

“My intention is to place those protections into state code, and also provide guidelines that can help schools understand how to establish policies that conform with the intentions outlined in this bill.”

To that end, the legislation directs the Indiana Attorney General and the state Department of Education to work with organizations with expertise in civil liberties to establish a model policy that can serve as a guide.

Finally, House Bill 1024 allows school corporations to offer an elective course about religions of the world, with opportunities to study histories, cultures, and various writings of those religions.

“I feel that schools can serve as havens for keeping our children safe and encouraging the growth of good character,” Bartlett said.

“For many of us, prayer and expressions of faith provide an opportunity to explore how we can understand the problems we face in our lives and help us look for ways to better ourselves and help those around us. It cannot solve all of our problems, but I feel it is a good place to start.”