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RALEIGH, NC (AP) — Legislation meant to clarify when and how student-led prayers are allowed in public schools has passed the North Carolina Senate.

The bill that passed unanimously Thursday says students can pray and express religious viewpoints as long as they don’t create disruptions. It also requires school employees to show “appropriate respect” toward students who are properly exercising their rights.

Republican sponsors speaking for the bill pointed to an incident in McDowell County in which a teacher forced a student to remove religious references from a poem.

Some Democrats have questioned the need for the bill and the removal of language from a previous version of the bill explicitly forbidding the schools from establishing an official religion.

The bill now heads to the House.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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