People in Southside React to Stanley's Prayer Proposal

Senator Bill Stanley

Danville, VA - State Senator Bill Stanley has proposed a controversial constitutional amendment giving people the right to pray on government property, and it's advancing in Richmond.

Tuesday, it won the Privileges and Elections Committee's approval on an 8-6 vote. But that doesn't mean it will pass. It still will have a long way to go before it could go into law.

"Maybe we could put God back into things where God should be," said Marshall Ecker, chairman of Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors.

For the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors, praying at public meetings remains a hot topic. For Ecker, this proposal hits close to home.

"It would open up a new avenue that all people would be able to pray," said Ecker.

Stanley has proposed changing Virginia's constitution to give everyone the right to pray at schools and on government property.

"I think it is wonderful," said Constance Covington.

Grandparent of two Gibson Middle students, Covington, says public prayer at school would be a good thing.

"I think openly it would make a world of difference," said Covington.

But Democratic opponents argue students could object to parts of the curriculum in school just by citing the amendment. ACLU director Claire Gastañaga says this bill would be either unnecessary or unconstitutional.

"A state constitution can't override the first amendment to the federal constitution," said Gastañaga.

Gastañaga says if the bill does pass, the ACLU will be ready with a lawsuit to challenge it.

"We would be there to defend the rights of people that believe they are being violated by this language," said Gastañaga.

The bill would still have to be enacted by both the House and the Senate. The earliest it could be up for a vote would be on the November ballot of next year if none of the wording changes.