(PALM BEACH POST) — TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Legislature is on course for another culture wars fight, after a House panel approved a measure Monday that could authorize student-led prayer in elementary, middle- and high schools.

The legislation (CS/SB 98) already has cleared the usually more moderate Senate. But the House Education Committee divided sharply along party lines before a Republican majority approved the proposal by Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights.

“Schools have been restricted from free speech,” Van Zant said, before the 9-6 vote. “We need to open up the schools to free speech so that students can say what’s on their minds, without censorship from the administration.”

Van Zant’s bill would allow school boards to adopt policies giving students authority to deliver “an inspirational message,” during the student portion of any assembly. Administrators, teachers, coaches and other school personnel would be prohibited from reviewing the message or editing it.

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