By Team

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Amid a long-running legal battle, the Florida House appears poised to pass a bill that would allow high-school speakers to offer remarks, including prayers, over public-address systems before athletic championship games.

The House on Tuesday took up the bill (HB 1027), sponsored by Rep. Webster Barnaby, R-Deltona, and positioned it for a vote.

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The measure comes during a lawsuit over a decision by the Florida High School Athletic Association in 2016 to block Cambridge Christian School of Tampa from offering a prayer over the public-address system before a football championship game at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium.

The school filed a federal lawsuit that contends the decision violated its First Amendment rights.

The athletic association has argued that allowing a prayer over the loudspeaker would have been viewed as “government speech.”

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Under questions from Democrats, Barnaby said the bill would leave decisions up to schools about speakers and vetting remarks.

“There’s nothing in this bill that says this is a two-minute prayer,” he said.

But Rep. Christopher Benjamin, D-Miami Gardens, asked how a prayer would not be considered “government sponsored.”

A Senate version of the bill (SB 880) has not moved forward in committees.

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