On June 4, the bill, which was co-sponsored by Representative Greg Evers (R-Baker), was signed into law by Governor Charlie Crist.
The legislation, which admittedly is a preemptive effort to stave off future law suits by such organizations as the American Civil Liberties Union, was a reaction to the much ballyhooed suit brought by the ACLU against the Santa Rosa County School Board which resulted in 2009 Pace High School Student Body President Mary Allen being prohibited from speaking at the Pace High School graduation ceremonies because of her strong Christian leanings.
Earlier in the year, the issue had been ratcheted up when Pace High School Principal Frank Lay and Pace High School Athletic Director Robert Freeman were charged with violating the school district's consent decree, a controversial document which has been accused of violating students' and school employees' First Amendment rights.
Lay and Freeman were found not guilty in a federal court proceeding.
"I applaud the governor for signing this good bill into law," said Evers. "Our First Amendment rights, granted to us by the U.S. Constitution, are absolute; and this law ensures that they remain that way."
Evers said that this would assure the right of students to do such things as bowing their heads in prayer before taking a test or mentioning God in a commencement speech — all without fearing reprisals.
"I commend Governor Crist for signing into law this bill that protects all Floridians' First Amendment rights," said the bill's co-sponsor, Representative Brad Drake (R-Eucheeanna). "This piece of legislation was a priority of mine and Representative Evers from day one, and we are proud to have answered our constituents' call for help to make this good bill Florida law."