In a possible blow to President Clinton’s hopes of carrying Florida on election day, Gov. Lawton Chiles vetoed a bill Friday that would have allowed voluntary student prayer at school events.
“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,” Chiles, a Democrat, said.
The bill would have allowed school boards to permit student-led prayer at sports events, voluntary assemblies and graduations. It also would have obliged students to take algebra and make higher grades than now required in order to graduate, provisions added by lawmakers hoping to sway Chiles.
State law now gives schools the option of allowing a moment of silence. About half the state’s districts have taken that step.
Chiles’ veto could damage Clinton’s hopes of becoming the first Democratic presidential candidate in 20 years to carry Florida.
“Florida is very much a Bible Belt state, and it has the swing vote on these rural white voters, and they are the ones who really decide if the state goes Republican or Democratic,” said Lance deHaven-Smith, a political scientist at Florida State University.