A Senate subcommittee will not endorse an amendment to the state constitution that its sponsor says will protect prayer in the public schools.
"I’m just trying to strengthen our constitution," said Grayson Co. Delegate Bill Carrico. "I’m not trying to change our constitution." Fresh from his victory in the House, Carrico brought House Joint Resolution 593 to a subcommittee of the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee.
Carrico says his amendment to the state constitution wouldn’t promote government sanctioned prayer, but would protect the people’s right to pray on public property, including public schools.
"We’re abridging the freedom of speech for people who have stood up and expressed their belief in God," Carrico told members of the panel.
The legislation found support during the hearing. Rev. Eddy Aliff is Executive Director of the Virginia Assembly of Independent Baptists. "We need to protect from the infringement and from the threats that have been coming in," Aliff said.
And strong opposition. Hope Amezquita was representing the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia. "We’re not sure what it’s actually doing," Amezquita said of Carrico's proposed amendment.
And I’m trying to figure out," said Senator Creigh Deeds, "how you improve on Mr. Jefferson’s language and his statement of our religious freedom."
The decision fell along party lines, with three Republicans voting to recommend the bill, four democrats voting against.
It’s unclear if the bill will resurface during this session, but Carrico says he feels so strongly about the issue, he will never give up.