January 25, 2008

Governor Chiles Veto Message

An excerpt from Governor Chiles' veto of the 1996 school prayer bill:

...The issue of school prayer has been very troubling for me for many years--first as a state legislator, then as a United States senator, and now as governor. School prayer was an everyday occurrence for me as a student in public school, and as a member of the Christian majority. I had, and still have, feelings that this is something that we should be allowed to do. Listening and trying to place myself in the circumstance of the minority, however, gives me a different perspective. I do not believe that the right to petition the divine should be granted or withheld by majority vote.

...I believe personally that a prayerful and spiritual life is richly rewarding. I commend it, and I recommend it. But endorsing such a life is for me to do as an individual. It is different for the state.

...the school prayer provision will diminish the importance of the views and beliefs of those who are not within the majority. The public schools in our pluralistic society are grounded upon the principle of inclusion. School programs which at their best bring people together in common bonds--at sporting events, school assemblies and commencement exercise--could be turned into events that tear people apart.

I am mindful, however, that worshiping together can be unifying and fulfilling experience. We gather together in churches, synagogues and mosques, in other places designated by certain societies and cultures as holy places, and at campfire services to celebrate and practice our religious beliefs with those who share our beliefs and our faiths. We do so--willingly, comfortably, trustingly--to share the common bonds of our faiths. Praying together is a devout act which is to be embraced, not an act to which one is to be subjected.

...After full and prayerful contemplation of this measure, I reach the conclusion that it is better for us to reverently honor prayer as individuals, in our places of worship, in our homes, and in our hearts.

For these reasons, I am withholding my approval of House Bill 1041, and hereby veto the same.

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