JOSH WEIDMANN: We pray for all the hurt just lately that we've been talking about more than just the hurt on this campus --
BETTY ANN BOWSER: High school senior Josh Weidmann says he couldn't get through the school day without praying.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: I just pray for the rest of the day, Lord, that you will keep my heart focused on You, Lord, and that --
BETTY ANN BOWSER: In fact, Weidmann leads a group called Revival Generation which encourages kids to pray at school.
JOSH WEIDMANN: Prayer is a huge, huge part of my life. And I think for any Christian student it should be and it is the way that students can always know that God is right there listening and there for them.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: He feels so strongly about prayer that he recently testified before the Colorado legislature in support of a bill that would mandate a moment of silent reflection at the start of the school day and require the posting of the Ten Commandments in every public classroom.
JOSH WEIDMANN: You know, there's so much coming at us. We see 16,000 images a day coming at us from a magazine, the TV or a Web site. And from that we have to figure out what the truth is. And I think through the Ten Commandments, that's just one opportunity that we get to see ten truths that we can base our life against and say, okay, maybe that's my truth also.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Republican State Senator John Andrews is the sponsor of the Ten Commandments Bill.
STATE SENATOR JOHN ANDREWS: By starting the school day with a moment of silence and by posting the Ten Commandments, we help kids be better citizens and we make school a safer place. No one's going to be made to read it, but it changes the tone of the school, and it begins to get us back away from the illicit religious establishment of secular humanism, which is now the reigning authority in our schools.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: In the wake of the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado last year, the legislature considered a number of bills designed to make schools safer. Most of them dealt with gun restrictions and were defeated in committee. But the Ten Commandments Bill survived. Colorado is not alone. Earlier this week the Indiana legislature passed a bill to permit the posting of the Ten Commandments in schools, courts and other public buildings; and eight other states are expected to vote on similar bills in the coming weeks. Sue Armstrong of the American Civil Liberties Union in Colorado says this bill clearly violates the Constitution's separation of church and state and she says that separation was very important to this nation's forefathers.
SUE ARMSTRONG: They had come out of roots where there was great religious persecution. They were keenly aware of the perils of blending church and state. I think that if we go beyond that and become arrogant and say, oh, this is just a simple mix of church and state, that it really doesn't matter, that it's a very simple issue, we're making a huge mistake.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: The Supreme Court has ruled on this issue once before. In 1980 it struck down a Kentucky law that required public schools to post the Ten Commandments. But state Senator Andrews says more recent decisions in state courts have given him hope.
STATE SENATOR JOHN ANDREWS: When there is a secular educational informational purpose, when the Commandments are presented as part of the cultural heritage that we all share as Americans, whether we're immigrants of 10 days ago or 400 years ago, or whether we're Native American, we all share that cultural heritage and the courts have said that it's absolutely permissible under the Constitution.
RABBI STEVEN FOSTER: It's not a historic document. That's the point. It is a religious document.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Rabbi Steven Foster says he fully supports teaching about different religions in the classroom but he says posting the 10 Commandments implies that the Judeo-Christian heritage is the only acceptable tradition.
RABBI STEVEN FOSTER: I think that there are some wonderful statements that come out of Muslim tradition. There's wonderful statements that come out of Hindu tradition. Good teachers, no matter what generation they're found in and what tradition they're found in, have made statements that we could all learn to live by. But what Senator Andrews is saying is no, this is a Judeo-Christian country -- really a Christian country, and this is just the beginning of this agenda.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: The bill's supporters deny they have any hidden agenda, but they do think that secularism in the schools has gone too far. They say the failure to teach right from wrong has led to too much hatred and violence. Andrews and others say for them, the Columbine shootings were a wake-up call that something had to be done.
Beth Nimmo is the mother of Rachel Scott, one of the girls killed during that shooting. She thinks such tragedies might be avoided in the future if public school teachers weren't bound in secular constraints.
BETH NIMMO: I think for so long our teachers and administrators and educators have almost had a gag law - you know -- saying that they cannot even express or convey any kind of religious beliefs in any way to the students. And I think that has been real damaging because they can't reach out to a student that they see every day sit in their class that would be hurting or be disturbed or -- you know -- be in a troubled home of some sort, not to be able to give them something for them to at least consider.
MARK MAVROGIANES: The plan is to look at two different kinds of documents.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: But History Teacher Mark Mavrogianes says educators at all public schools are already very much involved in teaching morals and values.
MARK MAVROGIANES: I don't think that you can be an educator -- I don't think that you can engage kids in an educational setting without talking about things that are right and wrong. We talk all the time -- my classes and I talk all the time about what's right and wrong. Was an action taken by a president, an action taken by a leader -- is that a justifiable action? And invariably that then is translated into personal terms and personal references so that you can communicate and connect with kids.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: For Rabbi Foster, the notion that Columbine could have been averted by more religious reflection is ludicrous. He says there's only one way to prevent another columbine: tougher gun laws.
RABBI STEVEN FOSTER: If you believe that schools are going to be better by putting the Ten Commandments on the walls, I think that's a fallacy. I think that we ought to have gun control and I think we ought to have safe storage and we ought to make sure that people cannot carry guns, concealed guns into classrooms.
STATE SENATOR JOHN ANDREWS: That's not really the answer. The answer has to come in changing human hearts, in better behavior, in citizenship, in respect for each other's human dignity. Some of that comes from simple reminders like "thou shalt not kill". No child would be harmed by that reminder.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: The Colorado Senate is expected to vote on the measure next week.