[JURIST] Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe [official website] vetoed a bill [text] on Friday that would have codified the rights of students to pray voluntarily in school and at school events. The bill would also codify students’ right to organize prayer groups, clubs or events, to wear religious jewelry or clothing and to express religious views at school events. McAuliffe reasoned [Washington Post report] that the bill could lead to coercive prayer at school. State Senator Charles Carrico [official website] proposed the bill and argued that it would merely protect students’ religious freedom in school. McAuliffe found that students already possess that freedom, as high schools are required to allow students to organize religious clubs and express religious beliefs.
The bounds of religious freedom continues to be a hotly debated issue in the US. On Thursday the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld [JURIST report] a regulation by the New York City Board of Education banning religious groups from holding worship services in school buildings. Earlier this week Mississippi lawmakers passed [JURIST report] the Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which prevents the state from taking any action which “burdens” a citizen’s right to religious exercise. In March the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments [JURIST report] on whether companies have a right to an exemption from the contraception provision of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) [JURIST backgrounder] for religious reasons. Also in March JURIST Guest Columnist Joseph La Rue of Alliance Defending Freedom described [JURIST op-ed] the motivation behind Religious Freedom Restoration Acts and the impact Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s veto [JURIST report] of a bill that would have permitted state business owners to refuse service to individuals for “religious reasons.”