DeSantis signs bill requiring students to 'reflect' and 'pray as they see fit' before class

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed a bill requiring public school students “to reflect and to be able to pray as they see fit” for one or two minutes each day during first period.

Florida law already “encourages” students to participate in “silent prayer,” but HB 529 will require that minute-or-two of reflection. 

“It’s something that’s important to be able to provide each student the ability, every day, to be able to reflect and to be able to pray as they see fit,” DeSantis said during a Monday press conference. “The idea that you can just push God out of every institution, and be successful — I’m sorry, our founding fathers did not believe that.”

Florida is also one of 15 other states that encourage public school students to participate in a moment of silence, a legislative analyst told The Associated Press.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, waves as he arrives, Monday, June 14, 2021, at the Shul of Bal Harbour, a Jewish community center in Surfside, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Democratic State Sen. Jason Pizzo supported HB 529, saying the students won’t be required to pray during those moments set aside by schools.

“It’s like a moment of meditation, relaxation, connection,” he said.

Much of DeSantis’ press conference focused on Florida’s Jewish community and the state’s support for Israel. The governor also signed a bill on Monday ensuring the operations of volunteer ambulance services for Orthodox Jews, who rely on volunteer ambulances to help overcome religious sensitivities that prevent some people from using traditional emergency services.

Rabbi Sholom Lipskar introduced the governor and possible 2024 Republican presidential candidate as a “great governor and future world leader” during the conference.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, and Rabbi Sholom Lipskar participate in a moment of silence, Monday, June 14, 2021, at the Shul of Bal Harbour, a Jewish community center in Surfside, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

A Monday press release from DeSantis notes that the Florida Leads Budget to support the state’s Jewish community includes $4 million in security funding for Florida’s Jewish Day Schools; $1.35 million for the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Pete; $400,000 for the Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach and other types of expenditures to support Florida’s Jewish people and Israel.

“Every family in our state should be able to send their children to school and know that they will be protected from harm and be able to practice their faith,” DeSantis said in a Monday statement. “I’m proud to sign these bills today to help protect religious freedom in Florida and increase the safety and security of our Jewish communities.”

He continued: “I will continue to make sure that in Florida we root out anti-Semitism, and that every day we show our support for Israel and our Jewish communities.”

Surrounded by state legislators and Jewish leaders, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, center, holds up two bills that he signed, Monday, June 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

HB 529 also encourages parents to discuss the practice of participating in a moment of silence at school and does not allow for suggestions regarding the nature of the prayer or reflection students might choose to participate in.

Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran said the bill “empowers families to begin those ongoing conversations with their child on what they might reflect on during the moment of silence, and help them use this time as an opportunity to prepare for the upcoming day.”

State Rep. Randy Fine suggested that “children desperately need time for quiet reflection” during times of “technological, media-driven, and societal turmoil.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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