As the Senate impeachment trial kicked off, President Donald Trump sat in the Oval Office surrounded by students of different faith backgrounds who shared their stories of being blocked in expressing their religious beliefs, including not being able to pray in school.

Trump vowed that wouldn't happen anymore.

"In public schools around the county authorities are stopping students and teachers from praying, sharing their faith, or sharing their beliefs. it is totally unacceptable," Trump said.

The administration's announcement in protecting prayer comes on National Religious Freedom Day. The plan aims to wipe school policies that interfere with students' constitutional rights to pray in school and sets up a system for violations to be reported to the Department of Education.

It does not allow school- led prayer.

"I think it's important that students know whatever they do in terms of prayer, expressing faith, that they have a safe space in school," said Larry Pickens with the Lehigh Conference of Churches in Allentown.

Pickens says he thinks some students feel uncomfortable expressing their beliefs. 

"I think there are probably students who feel threatened or somewhat limited in their ability to pray or openly share their faith," Pickens said. 

But the ACLU says the policy isn't breaking any ground.

Despite the president's hype, there's very little that's actually new —  it's nearly identical to the existing guidance issued in 2003 by President Bush," the ACLU said in a Twitter post.

The ACLU went on to say that the policy actually affirms that school officials are prohibited from imposing their faith on students. 

The guidance also requires public secondary schools and high schools to allow religious student groups to have the same access to facilities as secular student groups.


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