House passes volunteer school chaplain bill

kim daniels
School Boards would have until the end of the year to decide what their policy might be on this issue.

Bipartisan legislation that could put religious figures in your child’s classroom passed the House by an 89-25 margin, after a spirited debate in which one of the sponsors called herself a “Holy Roller” and said she “casts out devils.”

HB 931, sponsored by Republican Rep. Stan McClain and Democratic Rep. Kim Daniels, would “authorize volunteer school chaplains to provide support, services, and programs to students as assigned by the district school board or charter school governing board” with parental consent for the counseling.

School Boards would have until the end of the year to decide what their policy might be on this issue.

Level 2 screening of both state and federal criminal records would be required under this legislation for all volunteer chaplains. The $37.25 cost for each screening would be absorbed by the volunteer or the School District.

Parents would select a volunteer school chaplain from the list provided by the school district; such a list would include the chaplain’s denomination.

Structured debate on the legislation included skeptics from the Democratic side of the aisle.

Rep. Rita Harris said her “resistance” to backing the bill was rooted in the rejection of various amendments during Wednesday’s hearing of the bill on the Special Order calendar, which would have put “guardrails” on the program and would have added “common-sense” Democratic “input.”

Rep. Anna Eskamani contended the bill violates Amendment 1’s Establishment Clause, saying the bill “raises flags” and puts school districts in danger of litigation given students should expect the free exercise of religion.

Rep. Robin Bartleman questioned the ability of chaplains in this scheme to provide mental health counseling, suggesting the bill opens up a “Pandora’s box” for districts with volunteers who don’t know how to handle actual problems, and that the bill is “embracing and endorsing” unlicensed chaplains dealing with the “most vulnerable children” in the state.

Meanwhile, Daniels made the argument for her bill, noting that she sponsored a “prayer in schools” bill in 2016 and a bill putting “In God We Trust” in schools in 2018, saying this debate and bill was like “déjà vu.”

“None of the ‘unintended consequences’ ever happened,” Daniels said, noting criticisms were fierce during those processes as well.

Daniels also said the separation of church and state was “intended to keep the state out of the church,” rebutting Eskamani’s argument.

“I am the opponent of this bill’s worst nightmare,” Daniels continued. “I cast out devils, I pray in tongues, I’m a Holy Roller. But nobody on this floor can ever say I tried to convert you. Jesus is too good to push down anybody’s throats.”

A similar bill (SB 1044) has made progress in the Senate as well, though it hasn’t hit the floor yet.

The Sen. Erin Grall product has its final Committee hearing in Rules next Monday.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


5 comments

  • Michael K

    February 22, 2024 at 3:46 pm

    One more step toward theocracy – a White Christian Nationalist theocracy.

    Another solution in search of a problem. Keep religion out of public education. Keep the separation of church and state.

  • MH/Duuuval

    February 22, 2024 at 3:56 pm

    Match made in heaven: Kim Daniels and Erin Grall.

  • Julia

    February 22, 2024 at 5:06 pm

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  • Bwj

    February 22, 2024 at 7:56 pm

    Keeping the state out of the church. I do believe that it goes both ways.

    • MH/Duuuval

      February 23, 2024 at 9:03 am

      Precisely.

      Re-build the wall.

Comments are closed.


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