A Colorado state senator (a Republican from Colorado Springs, of course), Dave Schultheis, is pushing a draft of an absurd bill to open public schools wide to religious indoctrination, all in the name of the first amendment to the constitution. It’s a demand to create a “Public School Religious Bill Of Rights”, with a long list of religious privileges. Some of them are trivial: it ought to be OK for students to give each other holiday cards with religious sentiments (and of course, they already can), or greet each other with religious slogans (like, say, “Merry Christmas”…hasn’t the war on Christmas been done to death already?). Some sound innocuous but are prohibited for good reason; he wants teachers to be allowed to wear religious jewelry and decorate their classrooms to celebrate their religious holidays. That may be reasonable in moderation, like someone wearing a discreet necklace with a cross on it, but just wait until some fanatic demands the right to hang bloody crucifixes and portraits of Jesus all around the room — then it becomes a repressive sectarian doctrine to allow teachers to promote superstitions that are hostile to some of their students.
The general intent of the document is to clearly prioritize religion as the number one privileged subject of the school, which may not under any circumstances be gainsaid. The rah-rah for god is bad enough, but what I found most disturbing was the way it encouraged the use of religion to undermine good teaching. Here are examples:
(VII) NOT BE REQUIRED TO TEACH A TOPIC THAT VIOLATES HIS OR HER RELIGIOUS BELIEFS AND NOT BE DISCIPLINED FOR REFUSING TO TEACH THE TOPIC;
School boards must set up policies that allow:
(a) A HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT TO OPT OUT OF ANY CLASS OR THE USE OF SPECIFIC COURSE MATERIAL THAT IS INCONSISTENT WITH HIS OR HER RELIGIOUS BELIEFS; OR
(b) A PARENT OR GUARDIAN OF AN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL, MIDDLE SCHOOL, OR JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT TO EXCUSE HIS OR HER CHILD FROM ANY CLASS OR THE USE OF SPECIFIC COURSE MATERIAL THAT IS INCONSISTENT WITH HIS OR HER RELIGIOUS BELIEFS.
In other words, if someone follows a religion that says the sun rises in the west and sets in the east, you are not allowed to hand them a compass and take them outdoors early in the morning, and if you are a teacher with such a belief you can ignore basic astronomy, even if you are supposed to be teaching earth science. This is a common belief among these loons, that religious freedom means you are not allowed to confront them with reality. You can see where that has gotten this country so far.
Fortunately, other members of the Colorado senate say the bill doesn’t stand a chance of passing. That’s good, and not too surprising, but take heed: this is another strategy for getting creationism and who-knows-what into the schools, by cloaking it under the veil of first amendment religious freedoms.