DeSantis Approves Public School Chaplains Bill, Excludes Satanists

The state bars satanists from new law allowing religious chaplains in public schools

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday that the state will not permit satanists to benefit from a recent law enabling religious chaplains to counsel students in public schools with parental approval.

Expectations for Legal Challenge Over New Law

The governor expressed confidence that the state would succeed if a legal challenge arises concerning the newly passed law and potential issues of separation of church and state.

Legislation Clarifying School Chaplain Authority

During a bill signing event at Tohopekaliga High School in Kissimmee, Governor DeSantis clarified that schools and charter schools have the right to invite volunteer chaplains onto campus to offer additional counseling and support to students, emphasizing the voluntary nature of the program.

Support for Religious Inclusion

DeSantis emphasized that excluding religious groups from campuses would be discriminatory and contrary to the intentions of America’s Founding Fathers.

No Place for Satanists in School Chaplain Program

DeSantis asserted that satanists are not considered a legitimate religion to participate in the school chaplain program, reassuring the public that common sense would be applied to such matters.

Satanic Temple’s Plans to Utilize the Law

According to reports, the Satanic Temple intends to leverage the law’s provisions, citing their IRS recognition as a church.

Important Provisions of HB 931

The recently passed legislation, HB 931, permits schools to appoint religious figures as counselors on campus, under guidelines set by the district or charter school governing board.

Acknowledgment of Volunteer School Chaplains

Parents can select a volunteer chaplain from a list provided by the school district, outlining the chaplain’s affiliation in compliance with the law.

Qualifications for Volunteer Chaplains

The law requires volunteer chaplains to undergo a background check, without specifying additional qualifications.

Additional Legislation for Patriotic Organizations

DeSantis signed HB 1317, allowing patriotic organizations to interact with students with parental consent, including designated groups like the Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of the United States of America.

Reflections on Chaplains in Education

DeSantis drew from his experiences with chaplains in the U.S. Navy, advocating for similar services to be available to students in public schools.

Anticipated Legal Challenges and Responses

Groups such as the ACLU, Interfaith Alliance, and National Education Association cautioned against potential litigation over the chaplain program, while DeSantis defended the law’s constitutionality and emphasized equal access for religious organizations on school grounds.

Debating Religious Influence in Education

DeSantis aligned with a viewpoint advocating for a religious role in government, contrasting scholars’ counterclaims about the Constitution’s intent concerning religion in educational institutions.

Opposing Views on Chaplain Program

The ACLU of Florida criticized the chaplain program in public schools, stating concerns about religious coercion and evangelization, which could violate the First Amendment rights of students.

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