For Immediate Release


 June 11, 2007


Gov. Perry signs schoolchildren’s religious liberty bill

Austin- Governor Rick Perry today signed the Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act, putting religious expression and secular expression on a level playing field in Texas public schools.  The bill was introduced in the House by Representative Charlie Howard of Sugar Land and sponsored in the Senate by Senator Tommy Williams of the Woodlands. The bill received overwhelming bipartisan approval by votes of 108-28 in the House and 27-3 in the Senate.  

"This law is a victory for freedom and non-discrimination for every young Texan," said Rep. Charlie Howard who introduced the bill.  “It is win-win for students, school administrators and teachers.”

Houston attorney Joe Reynolds, a 16-year member of the Texas A&M Board of Regents, who has represented more Texas school districts than any other attorney said, “This is the best piece of legislation for school districts that has been introduced in the past 50 years.”

The act provides that “A school district shall treat a student’s voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint, if any, on an otherwise permissible subject in the same manner the district treats a student’s voluntary expression of a secular or other viewpoint on an otherwise permissible subject and may not discriminate against the student based on a religious viewpoint expressed by the student on an otherwise permissible subject.” 

The Act establishes safeguards to assure that individual religious viewpoints are not censored in limited public forums for student speakers, that speaker selection is based on neutral criteria, and that disclaimers be read or printed clearly establishing the individual nature of the expressed viewpoint. 

The law requires schools to adopt new policies and includes a suggested model policy covering Student Expression of Religious Viewpoints, Student Speakers at Non-Graduation Events, Student Speakers at Graduation Ceremonies, Religious Expressions in Class Assignments, and Freedom to Organize Religious Groups and Activities.

 “This bill does not require or suggest that any child express a religious viewpoint, it just protects them if they do. Religious children do not receive special rights, preferential treatment or extra protection, just equal rights, equal treatment and equal protection,” said Houston constitutional attorney and legal architect of the legislation, Kelly Coghlan.  “The law pulls together Supreme Court rulings and Department of Education guidelines into one easy to follow law and clears the air of the unnecessary chaos imposed in recent decades by anti-faith organizations upon school districts and children.”  The law goes into effect at the beginning of the 2007-2008 school year.

 Email: kellycoghlan@netzero.net    
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