(RNS) — The Kentucky Legislature is considering mandating an annual day of student prayer.
House Bill 40 would make the last Wednesday in September “A Day of Prayer for Kentucky’s Students” and would require the state’s governor to proclaim it as such every year.
The bill passed the Kentucky House last week by a broad margin and is now in the state Senate.
Regina Huff, a Republican representative from Williamsburg, Ky., who is one of five Republican sponsors of the bill, told a local news outlet that the proposed law is nondiscriminatory because it does not mention a specific religion but allows students to pray or meditate “in accordance with their own faith and consciences.”
Students would participate in the Day of Prayer before the regular school day, she said.
“Their event at school will be student-initiated and -conducted, and always before the start of the school day,” Huff said.
Gov. Matt Bevin, a Republican elected in 2014, has declared the last Wednesday in September a day of prayer for Kentucky students for the last two years.
The Supreme Court ruled against school-sponsored prayer in public schools in Engel v. Vitale in 1962.
But courts have generally rejected challenges to “See You at the Pole” events, in which students who want to pray gather at their school’s flagpole outside of class time. And the Supreme Court has generally upheld student-led prayer as long as it is not compulsory or organized by school officials.