Student religious viewpoint expression; limited public forums, school division policy. (HB493)

Introduced By

Del. Scott Lingamfelter (R-Woodbridge)


Passed Committee
Passed House
Passed Senate
Signed by Governor
Became Law


Limited public forums for student religious viewpoint expression; school division policy. Requires each school division to adopt a policy to permit a student speaker to express a religious viewpoint at all school events at which a student is permitted to publicly speak. The policy shall declare each such school event to be a limited public forum, provide a neutral method for the selection of student speakers, and require each school principal to provide a disclaimer in advance of each such school event that the school division does not endorse any religious viewpoint that may be expressed by student speakers. Read the Bill »


Bill Has Failed


01/06/2014Prefiled and ordered printed; offered 01/08/14 14100071D
01/06/2014Referred to Committee on Education
01/10/2014Assigned Education sub: Elementary and Secondary Education
01/22/2014Subcommittee recommends reporting (7-Y 2-N)
01/22/2014Subcommittee recommends referring to Committee for Courts of Justice
01/24/2014Impact statement from DPB (HB493)
01/27/2014Reported from Education (17-Y 5-N) (see vote tally)
01/27/2014Referred to Committee for Courts of Justice
01/28/2014Assigned Courts sub: Constitutional Law
02/05/2014Subcommittee recommends continuing to 2015
02/12/2014Left in Courts of Justice


ACLU-VA Religious Liberty, tracking this bill in Photosynthesis, notes:

The ACLU of Virginia opposes this legislation. It invites unconstitutional school sponsored religious speech. The ACLU of Virginia opposes HB 493 because it is unnecessary and may lead to government sponsored religious speech in schools.
Students’ rights to express and practice their faith in the public schools are already well-protected by existing federal and state laws. The First Amendment already protects students’ voluntary ability to pray and express religious viewpoints. The U.S. Constitution, the Virginia Constitution, and federal and state laws already guarantee that Virginia public school students freedom voluntarily to express their views in class, in their homework and on school grounds.

Laurie Dodd writes:

I oppose this bill because a student's ability to pray voluntarily and express a religious viewpoint is already well protected under the Constitution and the federal Equal Access Act. This bill is unnecessary and may lead to religious speech in schools that is endorsed by (or appears to be endorsed by) the public school and therefore the government. The Bill of Rights is intended to protect the minority from overreaching by the majority. When one religious belief is expressed in circumstances that suggest it is officially endorsed, those who hold other views suffer. The government should not be seen to suggest that one reliegious belief is better than another.