House bill passes that would allow school employees to express religion
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - The State House has passed a bill that would allow school employees to express their religion in a school setting.
House Bill 547 would prohibit a school district from punishing an employee for engaging in private religious expression, protected by the First Amendment.
Bowling Green is known for its large refugee community with dozens of different religions. The International Center of Kentucky is even based in the city mainly for that reason.
Albert Mbanfu, the executive director of the center, said the three main religions among refugees are Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist.
From Sep. 2020 to Oct. 2021, 241 immigrants alone arrived in Bowling Green, according to KentuckyRefugees.org.
Mbanfu said anyone and everyone should be allowed to practice their faith even at school, as both school systems do employ refugees he said.
“That applies to the refugees as well. I think they will be happy with such a law, because they feel like they can be accepted in the community for who they are, no matter what kind of God they believe in,” said Mbanfu.
Meanwhile, after thousands of Afghan refugees were sent around the United States to seek asylum in 2021, Bowling Green took in about 350 refugees. Mbanfu says more than 200 Afghans are still living in Bowling Green to this day.
Both Bowling Green State Representatives Robert Duvall and Kevin Jackson voted in favor of the bill. Duvall is one of the sponsors of the bill.
Mbanfu says this should especially expand to protect students even more so than the First Amendment already does.
“I don’t think this should only be for the teachers, it should be for the students as well because these students belong to a family and the family has their own faith. So if the teachers are free to express their faith, I think a student should be free to express his or her faith as well,” he said.
The bill passed 81-12 in the House last week and now heads to the Senate.
The International Center of Kentucky in Bowling Green has been in operation since 1981 and usually handles around 400 refugees each year.
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