Here's a little local news for me today. Too bad it's not positive. State Senator Dave Schultheis of Colorado Springs (where else?) recently introduced a bill in the state legislature to create a "Public Schools Religious Bill of Rights." Besides being completely unnecessary, the bill would give students wildly different educations depending on the religious views of their teachers.
The bill seeks to codify several rights students and teachers already have, including the right to proclaim their religious beliefs, hold prayer meetings outside of school hours, wear religiously themed clothing, exchange gifts, etc. All of these rights are already guaranteed by the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution. Most of the proposed bill is pure fluff.
However, there are two proposed rights I would like to comment on:
(V) USE A RELIGIOUS GREETING;
This is almost humorous coming from a Republican considering the Right has been the only group trying to limit the winter holiday greetings to "Merry Christmas." Regardless, it's guaranteed by the Constitution, making this proposed right as unnecessary as the others.
The most harmful proposal is the following:
(VII) [A teacher or an employee of a public school may:] NOT BE REQUIRED TO TEACH A TOPIC THAT VIOLATES HIS OR HER RELIGIOUS BELIEFS AND NOT BE DISCIPLINED FOR REFUSING TO TEACH THE TOPIC;
This is obviously a sneak attack directed towards teaching the theory of evolution. The problem is that if a teacher refuses to teach a topic on religious grounds, then his or her students will suffer while students who recieve the instruction will have an advantage. It creates a harmful disparity in education. As goverment officials, teachers have a constitutionally mandated responsibility to not respect an establishment of religion. Teachers can have whatever beliefs they want, but those beliefs cannot be forced onto their students.
Luckily, the bill doesn't stand a chance of passing. As Senator Bob Hagedorn, D-Aurora, said, "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." It makes sense. Considering Schultheis represents the evangelical enclave of Colorado Springs, this is probably just a way for him to appeal to his voters. More than likely, he wants to look like another poor, persecuted Christian so he'll be reelected whenever his term ends.