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Feb 10 2005
Bill Would Make Commandments, Pledge Mandatory in AL Schools

Bills would make pledge, Ten Commandments mandatory in schools

Last Update: 2/9/2005 5:14:49 PM

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Some state senators want to make sure that every public school has the Ten Commandments displayed and that every school day begins with students and teachers reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Bills that would put both requirements into law won approval in the state Senate Education Committee on Wednesday and now go to the Senate for consideration.

The committee voted 6-3 for a bill by Sen. Curt Lee, R-Jasper, that would require each public school in Alabama to display framed or mounted copies of the Ten Commandments, Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights.

Lee said the documents provide the foundation for American government and they should be on display daily in every public school in Alabama.

Committee Chairman Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile, voted against the bill, saying that schools don't have enough money now for the basics and Lee's legislation puts an unfunded mandate on them.

The committee also approved a bill by Sen. Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, to require that each day begin in Alabama public schools with students and teachers reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. The bill passed on a voice vote without any audible dissent.

Byrne, a former member of the State Board of Education, said he became interested in the issue because of the federal court ruling in California over using "under God" in the pledge. He said he learned that many states require the pledge be said daily, but in Alabama, state law only provided that students be afforded the opportunity to say the pledge.

Byrne said most schools do begin the day with the pledge and a moment of silence, which is required by law, but some only have the moment of silence.

Byrne's bill allows teachers and students to opt out of saying the pledge if they have objections or if they are citizens of another country. That is becoming more common as Alabama attracts more international industries, and those companies bring over executives and their families from the companies' home countries.

Larry Darby, president of the Atheist Law Center, said requiring students to say the Pledge of Allegiance "is an act of government-coerced political speech."

He dismissed both bills as "a lot of puffery" aimed at voters. "They want to create another religious sideshow for their constituents," the Montgomery attorney said.

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