PHILADELPHIA (CBS) –– Philadelphia City Council today tackled the always-difficult issue of prayer in public schools, with the lawmakers getting an earful on both sides of the issue.

City councilwoman Jannie Blackwell scheduled the debate on prayer in Philadelphia’s public schools based on her belief that the school district could do more.

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“Prayer can promote more virtuous living and may have a positive impact on student behavior in schools,” she told the hearing today.

But acting schools chief Leroy Nunery chose his words carefully.

“We don’t really have a particular comment,” he said.  “Obviously we have to abide by federal law.”

Bertha Simmons spoke in support of prayers in public schools.

“They don’t have to have it in the classroom,” Simmons said.  “Have a little area where everybody can go in and say their little separate prayer.”

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But Bill Ewing of the ACLU said that allowing prayer in schools opens a Pandora’s box:

“Are the parents going to decide, or are the teachers, the principal, or City Council, what prayers should be offered?”

The hearing ended, but the debate goes on.

Share your thoughts below.

Reported by Mike Dunn, KYW Newsradio 1060

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