'I Cast Out Devils': Bill Allowing Clergymen in Public Schools Faces Democratic Backlash

'I Cast Out Devils': Bill Allowing Clergymen in Public Schools Faces Democratic Backlash

From talk of casting out devils to fear of satanists in schools, a bill allowing religious officials in schools faced strong opposition

Liv Caputo
Liv Caputo
February 23, 2024

TALLAHASSEE, FL—The Florida House moved Thursday afternoon to allow school districts to employ volunteer religious officials as counselors in public schools, dividing Democrats over allowing these clergymen to provide mental health advice to students.

Co-sponsored by Democratic Rep. Kimberly Daniels and Republican Rep. Stan McClain, HB 931 provides for volunteer chaplains in schools, defined as “clergymen officially attached to a branch of the military, to an institution, or to a family or court”, and allows these religious officials to provide mental health counseling and spiritual care for students and staff.

"Ministry is about professionalism and the simplicity of the Gospel," Rep. Daniels said on the House Floor, setting herself apart from her fellow Democrats, who are vehemently opposed to her bill. "I am the opponents of this bill's worst nightmare: I cast out devils, I pray in tongues, I'm a Holy Roller,"

"Nobody on this floor can ever say that I tried to convert you. Jesus is too good to push down anybody's throat,"

These chaplains must pass a background check, but opponents criticize that no other certifications, such as mental health licensure, are mandated. One Democrat said the measure leaves the door open for Satanists in schools, while another worried about constitutional issues.

"We are saying that we don't have to have any qualifications for these chaplains. So any Joe Schmo who says, 'Hey, I'm a chaplain, I want to go into the schools', all they need to do is a background check and claim that they're a chaplain without any verification," Rep. Ashley Gantt said.

"I think it was in Washington State when Satanists started going into schools and asking to do prayers—people were up in arms!" She continued, referencing a 2016 after-school Satan club in Tacoma. "We're really opening up a can of worms to allow that to happen. If that's not your intent, it's going to be a reaction to the ambiguity in this bill,"

"I just want to highlight Amendment One, the Bill of Rights: Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof and so forth," Rep. Anna Eskamani said, advocating for a separation of Church and State.

In defense of the bill, Republican Rep. Doug Bankson contradicted Eskamani, explaining that the separation of Church and State is not in the Constitution, stating, "The Constitution very clearly states that it is a limitation on the Federal Congress to not establish religion or prohibit the free exercise thereof, because the states were concerned that their right to provide these services was going to be taken from them,"

HB 931 tracks comments made by Florida Gov. DeSantis, specifically during his now-defunct Presidential bid. He repeatedly discussed the "spiritual decline" in America, and cited his success as Governor coming from "the full armor of God".

HB 931 passed the House Floor in an 89-25 vote. Its Senate counterpart will face its final committee stop next week before reaching the Senate Floor.






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Liv Caputo

Liv Caputo

Livia Caputo is a senior at Florida State University, working on a major in Criminology, and a triple minor in Psychology, Communications, and German. She has been working on a journalism career for the past year, and hopes to become a successful reporter after graduation. Her work has been cited in Fox News, the New York Post, and the Daily Mail

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