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Haahr files Student Religious Liberties Act


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Rep. Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, is looking to expand religious liberties for public school students in light of state and federal court cases that he says haven’t been properly codified into state law.

Haahr’s bill was heard in committee earlier this week and received no formal opposition, despite some opponents claiming the bill blurs the lines between church and state separation.


“This bill would apply to a student with any religious belief,” Haahr said. “And it does not provide at all for teachers to lead any religious instruction. But what it says is that if a student includes religious themes or ideas in say his schoolwork and he has met the requirements of the work, that he has the right to do that.”

Haahr, an attorney, said his main concern was that some school districts weren’t aware of current case law and were too-strictly enforcing restrictions on religious expression in schools.

“If there’s a 15 minute break between 3rd and 4th period and students want to organize, on their own, a brief prayer or bible study or something, that’s something that is permissible under existing case law, but sometimes schools are stopping those things from happening because they believe they are crossing a line,” Haahr said.

Haahr said it was a constituent who raised the concern with him initially, and that after he began researching legal rulings and hearing anecdotal stories about what he called “silly” over-reaching restrictions on religious expression, he decided he needed to file legislation.