Pharyngula

Colorado crazy

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:

Teachers may:

(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.

Comments

  1. #1 speedwell
    January 29, 2007

    It’s even worse than that. It’s a move so extreme that anything less will sound reasonable merely by comparison.

  2. #2 Mike Haubrich
    January 29, 2007

    I know you have come out against Wisconsin Rep’s bill to protect state standards from including science that is not recommended by the NCSE; I don’t see why Minnesota should wait until the standards are up for renewal before pushing strict standards for sciece legislatively. John C. West already claims that the section on how theories are developed allows the teaching of alternative theories in Minnesota’s science classes. I think it is time to take a clear stand for science in Minnesota and other states within the reach of Pharyngula.

    I don’t know that her bill was re-introduced in the 2007 Assembly, last year’s was DOA in a Republican controlled assembly. That doesn’t prevent a similar bill from being introduced here in Minnesota, one that is appropriate to our process. I am willing to go to my rep, but I would like to have some lobbying support from science educators.

    Here is Dembski’s reaction to last year’s bill:

    “Unlike Dover, where the focus was on ID’s legitimacy as science, such a trial [in Wisconsin] would focus on the exclusive right of evolutionary theory to maintain its monopoly over the teaching of biological origins…. [T]his will be a much more difficult case for the ACLU to win. In Dover, ID needed to defend itself. In such a case [in Wisconsin], evolution will need to defend itself…. (emphasis mine)

    “Dover certainly wasn’t ID’s Waterloo. Wisconsin may well be evolution’s Waterloo,” Dembski said.

    http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=22610

    As for the exclusion portions of the bill for students who don’t want to be confronted by classes that contradict their religious beliefs, it is sad to hold onto a faith that can’t withstand challenge.

    The Catholic Hymn goes like this:

    “Faith of our fathers, living still
    In spite of dungeon, fire and sword!
    O how our hearts beat high with joy
    Whene’er we hear that glorious word!
    Faith of our fathers! Holy faith!
    We will be true to Thee till death!”

    What is a little evolution in school compared to the Rack?

  3. #3 xenophobic
    January 29, 2007

    So, could an atheist opt out of a class because of a fanatic Christian teacher? In my mind, and probably theirs too, atheism isn’t a religion. I don’t think that teens who do not believe would be given the same rights. Wow, seems almost as fair and balanced as Fox News!
    I suppose criticisms of religion wouldn’t be tolerated in the schools if this passed.
    I think some of these politicians need to remember that our country is supposed to have a “wall of separation” between church and state. Are they forgetting that we have these freedoms to prevent a religious monopoly in government?
    Someone really needs to get the morons of this country to wake up.

  4. #4 hoary puccoon
    January 29, 2007

    Oh, come on. This is a GREAT law! It takes all control away from employers. You can’t refuse someone a job because of their religion, but once on the job, you can’t fire them for refusing to violate their religious beliefs. So–
    Muslim women will take all the stripper jobs and once on stage, refuse to remove their burkhas.
    Baptists will become bartenders and hand out religious tracts instead of drinks.
    Rastafarians will become cops and promote the use of marijuana.
    and, of course, atheists will enter evangelical Christian seminaries, refuse all courses because they conflict with their beliefs, graduate anyway because the “Religious Bill of Rights” says they can, and then take ministerial posts so they can preach atheism from the pulpit every Sunday morning!
    Why don’t you LOVE this law!??!!

  5. #5 George
    January 29, 2007

    (III) EXCHANGE AN ITEM WITH A RELIGIOUS THEME WHEN
    19 GREETING CARDS OR OTHER ITEMS ARE EXCHANGED AT A PUBLIC SCHOOL;

    Rastafari!

    There are two types of Rasta religious ceremonies. A reasoning is a simple event where the Rastas gather; smoke “ganja” (marijuana); and discuss ethical, social and religious issues. The person honoured by being allowed to light the herb says a short prayer beforehand, and it is passed in a clockwise fashion except in time of war it is passed to the right. A bynghi or grounation is a holy day; the name bynghi is believed to refer originally to an ancient, and now extinct, order of militant blacks in eastern Africa that vowed to end oppression. Bynghis are marked by much dancing, singing, feasting and the smoking of ganja, and can last for several days.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rastafari_movement

  6. #6 Uber
    January 29, 2007

    What is wrong with people? I mean seriously why would you spend your time promoting such things in a state senate? Is there nothing more important going on there?

  7. #7 quork
    January 29, 2007

    What is wrong with people? I mean seriously why would you spend your time promoting such things in a state senate?

    I think it’s called “consolidating the base.”

  8. #8 One Eyed Jack
    January 29, 2007

    This would be a wonderful step forward for religious freedom. If it passes, I hope the local pagan and satanic organizations take full advantage of it to organize and practice their particular religious beliefs on school grounds.

    I’m sure this is precisely the religious freedom that the good senator had in mind. Certainly he doesn’t intend it to apply only to Christians?

    OEJ

  9. #9 Bob
    January 29, 2007

    I mean seriously why would you spend your time promoting such things in a state senate?

    The answer comes from Senator Bob Hagedorn in the story…

    “I would have to question whether or not Sen. Schultheis is serious about passing meaningful legislation or whether he just wants to throw something inflammatory out there and get shot down and then go play the martyr”…

    I’ll take persecuted martyred xians for $1000, Alex…

  10. #10 Mena
    January 29, 2007

    They couldn’t complain about the kids reading the Harry Potter books-Satanism (their word, not a sane person’s description of the books) would also have to be protected, wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t it? ;^)

  11. #11 llewelly
    January 29, 2007

    (III) EXCHANGE AN ITEM WITH A RELIGIOUS THEME WHEN
    19 GREETING CARDS OR OTHER ITEMS ARE EXCHANGED AT A PUBLIC SCHOOL;

    Sweet! I’m goin’ to Colorado, and starting a safe-sex religion, which requires the handing out of condoms.

    (well, not really)

  12. #12 Azkyroth
    January 29, 2007

    While this is disturbing, the more verminous of the religious misconstruing enforcement of the 1st amendment as a violation of its provision for freedom of religion is hardly news; we see this from the less intelligent of the more verminous Christians on a very frequent basis.

  13. #13 Niket
    January 29, 2007

    IMHO, this is just a ploy. Schultheis knows that this bill does not stand a chance of being passed. But, he can then come up with a milder version of the bill, so that it would seem that he is compromising on his position, expecting the other side to compromise too.

    Its like I really don’t think I should sell my car for more than $2500, but I advertise “$3000 OBO” so that I have some wiggle room.

  14. #14 jre
    January 29, 2007

    If I may point it out (ahem), Colorado now has Democratic majorities in both houses of the state legislature, a Democratic governor, and Democrats in one Senate and four (of seven) House seats. Granted, two others of those seven are the less-than-zero Marilyn Musgrave and the loathsome Tom Tancredo — but there is hope even there, since Musgrave is more vulnerable with every election, winning by only a few points in 2006. And Tancredo seems all set to serve as the Republicans’ Nader in 2008 by splitting off the nativist pinhead vote.
    So — despite one conspicuous nest of fundamentalist ninnies in the Springs, Colorado is doing well and getting better all the time. That bill (as you point out) is DOA, and a few years from now I doubt that such foolishness will even come up.

  15. #15 denise
    January 29, 2007

    Trying to raise a critical thinker is hard when people are shoving ultimate truths down their throats since birth. I decided to choose religious wackery when I was in my 20’s. I am perfectly happy to admit that my Heathen Gods might not exist. But the whole thing becomes much more complicated when you’re trying to explain religion a 6 year old.

    I do not think religion belongs in schools. My husband and I are raising our great nephew. He came to us when he was 5 and had already been indoctrinated into the cult of Jesus. I’m not entirely comfortable telling him what I believe.

    Our Nephew is mildly autistic (in a sort of socially awkward future genius way) He is curious about everything. He thinks in absolutes and he craves consistency. Since we can not undo his previous Jesus training, we are trying to teach him that no one really knows the truth but that many people all over the world believe different things about Gods and Goddesses and how the universe works. We back this up with science.

    Science provides the stability and consistency that he needs. I can say “Well, I like to believe that I can talk to the sun and she listens but what we know for certain is that the sun is a big giant ball of burning gas.” We tell him that science has answers that are real and that religion is what people can’t prove but choose to believe because it makes them feel good.

    I wish school would back this up. Instead we get “Christmas Vacation” and “Easter break” and a learning support teacher who’s first words to me were about how my nephews name (Emmanuel) translates to “With God”.

    His mother is dieing of AIDS and we are trying hard to give him the tools to deal with this loss. I don’t want people filling his head with bullshit about heaven and hell. It will only make it harder for him to deal later on in life. If teachers are given more freedom to indoctrinate their students this type of insanity will only get worse.

    If teachers of every faith were on a crusade to present their beliefs to their students then the focus would be drawn even further away from the things that kids will benefit the most from learning.

    The only religion I would want taught at my nephew’s school would be the history of religion with a focus on all the horrible things done in its name.

    My two little Heathen cents-

    Denise

    >>This would be a wonderful step forward for religious freedom. If it passes, I hope the local pagan and satanic organizations take full advantage of it to organize and practice their particular religious beliefs on school grounds.

    I’m sure this is precisely the religious freedom that the good senator had in mind. Certainly he doesn’t intend it to apply only to Christians?

    OEJ<<

  16. #16 RedMolly
    January 29, 2007

    So — despite one conspicuous nest of fundamentalist ninnies in the Springs, Colorado is doing well and getting better all the time.

    And, er, um, the entire Western Slope. (Home of the inestimable lieutenant-governor-candidate Janet Rowland, whose “boys marrying boys! you might as well let people marry their German shepherds!” rant on public TV may have effectively put the nail in the coffin of Bob Beauprez’ gubernatorial campaign. Thanks, Janet… you rock!)

  17. #17 Lorne Ipsum
    January 29, 2007

    JRE,

    “…a few years from now I doubt that such foolishness will even come up…”

    Nice dream, but that’s pretty much all it is. Foolishness like this will come up so long as Colorado Springs exists. Schultheis knows what it takes to keep his base happy, things like…

    * Insisting that the state refer to illegal immigrants only as illegal “aliens”

    * Blaming essentially all the state’s ills on said “aliens”

    * Proposing a constitutional amendment prohibiting the state from printing any forms in Spanish, and banning foreign-language books in libraries and public schools

    * Publicly questioning the immigration status of the victims of a fatal car accident — all were U.S. citizens, but made the mistake of having a Hispanic surname

    * Proposing legislation that a 1-year waiting period (with mandatory counseling) be enforced before a divorce can be granted to any married couple with children

    * Shultheis is a member of the “Minutemen” pseudo-militia

    * When a fellow member of the Minutemen sent a black legislator an email threatening to lynch him, Shultheis stated the resulting controversy was “blowing the issue out of proportion”

    I’d like to think that nonsense like this will go away by itself, but the reality of the situation is that we’ll always have to deal with loonies.

    Lorne

  18. #18 Jade
    January 29, 2007

    As other people have said, this might not be a bad idea, because then teachers can also teach yoga and some yogic philosophy, for which there is some evidence that it provides some physical, mental and emotional benefits…unlike the typical Christian philosophy.

    They seem to be pretty set on hypocritically translating “freedom of religion” to mean “freedom to be Christian” though. See http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16859368/wid/11915773?GT1=8921

  19. #19 Brian X
    January 29, 2007

    A “Minuteman”, huh? You know, it’s interesting how these people take the names of Revolutionary War themes and people… Michael Savage and his “Paul Revere” group is another example.

    Personally, as someone from Massachusetts and a staunch bleeding heart, I consider such appropriations to be highly offensive and an insult to the history of the state where I grew up.

  20. #20 jre
    January 29, 2007

    Nice dream, but that’s pretty much all it is.

    Time, as they say, will tell. Call me an optimist, but I see the tide running pretty decisively against these bozos. Less than two years ago, John Andrews[1] was president of the Colorado Senate and waging war on leftist professors. Now he’s out of office and writing whiny editorials in the Denver Post about how his fellow conservatives won’t stand up for the causes that got them trounced in the polls.

    It may be too much to say that one bucket of soapy water has caused all their beautiful wickedness to melt away, but right-wing mischief is having a harder and harder time getting support in Colorado.

    [1] Evil twin of the other John Andrews.

  21. #21 kerry cunningham
    January 29, 2007

    i neither have children nor live in colorado, but i did right this whack-job an email. it really is breathtakingly stupid.

  22. #22 bernarda
    January 29, 2007

    As has often been said, reality has a well-known liberal bias. I would add that reality has a well-observed atheist bias.

  23. #23 Scott
    January 29, 2007

    PZ, thanks for the coverage!

    I live in Colorado and, among sending this ‘alert’ to many others, I sent an e-mail to another member of the state legislature. Here’s part of the response:

    “…I am certain, however, that the bill will be killed in the Senate Education committee. Schultheis knows it too, and is just pandering to his extreme religious “wrong” base….”

    We can only hope it’s not just killed in the Senate Education Committee, but Schultheis is laughed out the door!

    Thanks for the support everyone.

  24. #24 Ed Darrell
    January 29, 2007

    This is in Colorado? The state where it’s illegal for world geography teachers to post a flag of another nation for students to look at for a while? (No, I’m not kidding; remember last fall? See it here: http://timpanogos.wordpress.com/2006/08/26/colorado-flag-flap-update/ )

    Why can’t they just teach the facts?

  25. #25 Jeremy
    January 30, 2007

    I like the Rastafari movement…they’ll be allowed in school, won’t they?

    All that needs to happen is a front page story on what things people can do, and just watch support for it melt away. Mel Gibson’s dad can go there and teach that the Holocaust didn’t happen. It’s a lot like that WorldNetDaily post PZ linked to awhile back, where the fundie went to Hawaii and was appalled at a Shinto priest saying the prayer before the high school football game.

  26. #26 Keith Douglas
    January 30, 2007

    I’ve never been to Colorado, but it sounds like a great place to ski. Too bad these nutcases are screwing around there. I wish there was a good way to discourage frivolous bills in legislatures, without punishing small parties …

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