Spent this morning with a motley crew of church/state separation activists, going over some of the odder bills which will be considered by the Oklahoma Legislature during the upcoming legislative session. I’d like to share a few of those bills with you, in case your State or your Nation ever decides to try this stuff out.
One of the bills that I spoke on was House Bill 1456, the inaptly-titled Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act, which has at least three pernicious probable effects:
- Putting students in public pulpits wherein preaching is proper whenever they are designated to speak (e.g. morning announcements, pep rallies, sports events, graduation ceremonies) and significantly expanding the number of opportunities for designated student pulpits.
- Putting teachers in the paradoxical situation wherein “classroom assignments shall be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance” while at the same time students shall not be “penalized or rewarded on account of the religious content of their work.” Given the number of students who are more comfortable writing about religious doctrines instead of scientific theories, how can teachers be expected to thread the needle between these contradictory requirements?
- Putting school administrators in between those parents who demand rigorous scientific instruction and those who demand that the provisions of this law be broadly construed so as to make way for more discussion of faith-based world-views in the classroom. The litigation risks created by this bill are practically unlimited, and the local school districts would bear the brunt of it.
Ultimately, this bill is a carefully crafted wedge document, designed to use seemingly neutral language to reintroduce anti-scientific and faith-based ideas back into public school classrooms. If you live in Oklahoma, please tell your representative that you aren’t falling for it. If you live anywhere else (other than Texas, where this bill is already law) do keep a lookout for this sort of subtle legal language in your own legislature.
For further reading: The Texas Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act and the Establishment Clause