DeSantis signs ‘moments of silence’ bill

Touting the measure as a way of allowing students to
“reflect and be able to pray as they see fit,” Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday
signed a bill that will require public schools to hold moments of silence at
the beginning of each day.

DeSantis signed the bill (HB 529), which will institute one-
to two-minute moments of silence in public school classrooms, at The Shul of
Bal Harbour, a Jewish community center.

“The idea that you can just push God out of every
institution and be successful, I’m sorry, our Founding Fathers did not believe
that,” DeSantis said, shortly before signing the measure behind a placard
that read “protect religious liberty.”

When the law goes into effect July 1, public-school
principals will be required to direct first-period teachers to institute
moments of silence.

The new law also will mandate that teachers can’t “make
suggestions as to the nature of any reflection that a student may engage in
during the moment of silence,” and students “may not interfere with other students’

Teachers also will be required to encourage parents to talk
with students about the moments of silence and “to make suggestions as to the
best use” of the time.

While speaking at the Jewish community center in Miami-Dade
County, DeSantis and Republican allies focused heavily on the bill allowing for
silent prayer. Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez said the bill will “allow for religious
freedom and allow for students to have a minute or two at the start of their

The tone at the event was a departure from earlier comments
by the bill’s sponsors that the measure was not explicitly aimed at allowing

Senate sponsor Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, defended the measure
during a Senate floor debate in April by saying the bill is aimed at giving
school children a silent, uninterrupted moment “just to stop and reflect.”

House sponsor Randy Fine, R-Brevard County, similarly argued
in February that the proposal would not push religion on public-school

Rep. Omari Hardy, a West Palm Beach Democrat who voted
against the bill, accused the  Republican sponsors of misrepresenting the
intent behind the measure.

“The Republican who sponsored the bill said that it wasn’t
about prayer in school. (Of course it was!) But when you question their
motives, or their honesty, it’s called a personal attack & deemed out of
order. No. The Republicans lie, and we need to call them on it every time,”
Hardy said in a tweet Monday.

Also during Monday’s appearance, DeSantis signed a bill to
allow volunteer ambulance services that are faith-based non-profit
organizations to provide basic and advanced life-support services free of

The bill (HB 805), which also is set to go into effect July
1, will allow the volunteer ambulances to use emergency lights when responding
to calls. Only services that have been operating in the state for a decade or
more are eligible.

DeSantis said the measure supports volunteer ambulance
services with a “proven track record” like Hatzalah, a non-profit that provides
services in South Florida. 

“These services are critical for Holocaust survivors who
have a fear of uniforms and of being taken away,” a news release about the bill
from DeSantis’ office said Monday. “Members are trained to treat patients
according to Jewish law.”

Nunez told the crowd that both bills DeSantis signed are “a
testament to our continued support and our continued prioritization of issues
that are important to the Jewish community.”

Rep. Mike Caruso, a Delray Beach Republican who sponsored
the ambulance bill, likened it to the bill mandating a moment of silence.

“Hatzalah means ‘rescue,’” Caruso said. “And … this bill,
I see it as a first step of rescuing our communities and our society from the
purging of God out of it. And this is a first step of getting God back into our


Meet the Editor

Wendy Weitzel, The Star’s digital editor, joined the news outlet in August 2021, as a reporter covering primarily Gulf County.

Prior to then, she interned for Oklahoma-based news wire service Gaylord News and for Oklahoma City-based online newspaper during her four years at the University of Oklahoma, from which she graduated in May with degrees in online journalism and political science.

While at OU, Weitzel was selected as Carnegie-Knight News21 Investigative Fellow among 30 top journalism students from around the country. She also was senior editor managing a 12-person newsroom in coordination with Oklahoma Watch, a non-profit news organization in eastern Oklahoma.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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