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S.J.R. 9







Chief Sponsor: Parley G. Hellewell

House Sponsor: Michael T. Morley

             9      LONG TITLE
             10      General Description:
             11          This joint resolution of the Legislature recognizes the rights of public school students to
             12      voluntarily participate in religious expression in public schools.
             13      Highlighted Provisions:
             14          This resolution:
             15          .    recognizes the rights of public school students to voluntarily engage in prayer and
             16      other expressions considered religious in nature in public schools.
             17      Special Clauses:
             18          None
             20      Be it resolved by the Legislature of the state of Utah:
             21          WHEREAS, a firm understanding of the proper and lawful roll of religious expression
             22      is requisite to full participation in public institutions;
             23          WHEREAS, a state of confusion and in some cases fear among the general citizenry
             24      exists as to the proper role of religious expression in public schools and other public settings;
             25          WHEREAS, the free exercise of religion is a fundamental right guaranteed by both the
             26      United States Constitution and the Utah Constitution;
             27          WHEREAS, the freedom of speech is a fundamental right guaranteed by both the

             28      United States Constitution and the Utah Constitution;
             29          WHEREAS, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution states, "Congress
             30      shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise
             31      thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably
             32      to assemble";
             33          WHEREAS, the Utah Constitution states, "The rights of conscience shall never be
             34      infringed. The State shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting
             35      the free exercise thereof;...There shall be no union of Church and State, nor shall any church
             36      dominate the State or interfere with its functions. No public money or property shall be
             37      appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise or instruction, or for the support
             38      of any ecclesiastical establishment.";
             39          WHEREAS, the Utah Constitution also states: "No law shall be passed to abridge or
             40      restrain the freedom of speech or of the press";
             41          WHEREAS, prayer is fundamental to the exercise of both religion and free speech;
             42          WHEREAS, courts have ruled that voluntary student participation in prayer in public
             43      schools is permitted if the policy permitting it ensures that there is no direct or indirect
             44      coercion and no identification with a particular religion, and that the prayer should be
             45      nonsectarian, nondenominational, and nonproselytizing in character;
             46          WHEREAS, students participating in the singing of songs that are religious in theme,
             47      and expressions often related to holidays that are religious in nature, also enjoy legal protection
             48      under the state and federal constitutions;
             49          WHEREAS, the courts have established a three-part test for determining if a
             50      government action violates the establishment of religion clause of the First Amendment to the
             51      United States Constitution: (1) the government action must have a secular (nonreligious)
             52      purpose; (2) the government action's primary purpose must not be to inhibit or to advance
             53      religion; and (3) there must be no excessive entanglement between government and religion;
             54      and
             55          WHEREAS, the United States Supreme Court has ruled the union-of-church-and-state
             56      ban applies only to circumstances that join a particular religious denomination and the state so
             57      that the two function in tandem on an ongoing basis:
             58          NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Legislature of the state of Utah

             59      recognizes the right of public school students to voluntarily participate in prayer, and also in
             60      the singing of songs and in expressions related to holidays that are religious in nature, in public
             61      schools, within known legal limits of religious expression, tolerance, civility, and dignity as
             62      contemplated by this nation's founders.
             63          BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this resolution be sent to each student
             64      currently enrolled in Utah's public schools, each parent of a student currently enrolled in Utah's
             65      public schools, the Utah Parent Teacher Association, the Utah Education Association, the Utah
             66      State Board of Education, the Utah State Office of Education, the Utah Association of
             67      Counties, and the Utah League of Cities and Towns.

Legislative Review Note
    as of 1-13-06 9:41 AM

Based on a limited legal review, this legislation has not been determined to have a high
probability of being held unconstitutional.

Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel

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