WE haven’t had much to report about Colorado, but today we’re going to make up for that. A state legislator has come up with a whole new legislative approach to sneaking creationism into state schools. This wonder was introduced by state senator Dave Schultheis.
You can track the history of Dave’s new bill as it works its way through the legislative process here: Summarized History for Bill Number SB10-089.
Dave’s bill was introduced on 20 January and assigned to the state Senate’s Judiciary Committee. On 15 February that committee took some kind of action to postpone indefinitely any further action — whatever that means.
What’s the bill all about? You can read it here: SENATE BILL 10-089 (pdf file). With bold provided by us, the summary says:
The bill establishes the “Religious Bill of Rights for Individuals Connected to Public Schools Act” (act), which requires the state board of education (state board) to adopt a religious bill of rights for public school students and parents and a religious bill of rights for public school teachers and employees (religious bills of rights) outlining each party’s respective inalienable individual religious rights.
The state board shall distribute the religious bills of rights to school district boards of education (local boards), and each local board shall adopt policies and procedures to implement the act, including the annual distribution of the religious bills of rights to students, parents, teachers, and employees of the school district. Additionally, local boards of education shall provide opt-out provisions to individuals for classes or course materials that are in conflict with the individual’s religious beliefs.
The bill provides that individual members of local boards are personally liable for lawsuits brought under the act if the local board fails to adopt policies and procedures to implement the act or to ensure compliance with the act.
We already have a Bill of Rights attached to the US Constitution, and it provides for religious freedom. We haven’t checked, but we assume the Colorado state Constitution has a similar provision. So what’s this bill supposed to do that isn’t already done? The bill is 11 pages long, but that won’t deter us. Here are some excerpts, with bold added by us. Sorry about the all caps, but that’s how Colorado does it:
(1) THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY HEREBY FINDS AND DECLARES THAT:
(a) THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION AND THE COLORADO CONSTITUTION GUARANTEE INDIVIDUALS CERTAIN BASIC RELIGIOUS RIGHTS;
(b) MANY INDIVIDUALS ARE UNAWARE OF THEIR EXISTING CONSTITUTIONAL RELIGIOUS RIGHTS. BECAUSE THESE RIGHTS ARE COMING UNDER INCREASING ATTACK IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM, A METHOD TO RECOGNIZE, PROMOTE, AND ENFORCE THESE RIGHTS IS OF GREAT IMPORTANCE TO STUDENTS, PARENTS, TEACHERS, AND EMPLOYEES.
Aha! Religious rights are coming under increasing attack. This sounds serious! Let’s read on:
THE RELIGIOUS BILL OF RIGHTS FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENTS AND THEIR PARENTS OR GUARDIANS SHALL INCLUDE, BUT NEED NOT BE LIMITED TO, A DECLARATION THAT A PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENT HAS AN INALIENABLE RIGHT TO:
(I) EXPRESS HIS OR HER RELIGIOUS BELIEFS ON A PUBLIC SCHOOL CAMPUS OR AT A SCHOOL-SPONSORED EVENT TO THE SAME EXTENT AS HE OR SHE MAY EXPRESS A PERSONAL SECULAR VIEWPOINT;
(II) PARTICIPATE IN A PRIVATE RELIGIOUS CEREMONY HELD ON A PUBLIC SCHOOL CAMPUS OUTSIDE OF INSTRUCTIONAL TIME TO THE SAME EXTENT AS HE OR SHE MAY PARTICIPATE IN A PRIVATE SECULAR ACTIVITY OR CEREMONY OUTSIDE OF INSTRUCTIONAL TIME;
(III) EXCHANGE A GREETING CARD OR OTHER ITEM WITH A RELIGIOUS THEME;
(IV) SING RELIGIOUS SONGS ALONG WITH SECULAR SONGS AS PART OF A SCHOOL-SPONSORED OR CURRICULUM-RELATED PROGRAM;
(V) USE A RELIGIOUS GREETING;
(VI) WEAR RELIGIOUS GARB ON A PUBLIC SCHOOL CAMPUS, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO CLOTHING WITH A RELIGIOUS MESSAGE;
(VII) EXPRESS HIS OR HER RELIGIOUS BELIEFS OR SELECT RELIGIOUS MATERIALS WHEN RESPONDING TO A SCHOOL ASSIGNMENT IF HIS OR HER RESPONSE REASONABLY MEETS THE EDUCATIONAL PURPOSE OF THE ASSIGNMENT; AND
(VIII) RECITE RELIGIOUS MATERIAL WHEN AN ORAL RECITATION IS ASSIGNED IF THE MATERIAL FAIRLY MEETS THE EDUCATIONAL PURPOSE OF THE ASSIGNMENT.
But that’s not all. The bill continues:
THE RELIGIOUS BILL OF RIGHTS FOR TEACHERS AND EMPLOYEES OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS SHALL INCLUDE, BUT NEED NOT BE LIMITED TO, A DECLARATION THAT A TEACHER OR AN EMPLOYEE OF A PUBLIC SCHOOL HAS AN INALIENABLE RIGHT TO:
(I) TEACH A RELIGIOUS TOPIC IN PUBLIC SCHOOL FOR HISTORICAL, LITERARY, OR OTHER EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE RELIGIOUS ORIGINS OF VARIOUS HOLIDAYS;
(II) DISPLAY RELIGIOUS MATERIALS AND ITEMS THAT DIRECTLY RELATE TO A TOPIC BEING DISCUSSED IN THE CLASSROOM;
(V) ANSWER A STUDENT’S QUESTION ON A RELIGIOUS TOPIC;
(VI) NOT BE REQUIRED TO TEACH A TOPIC THAT VIOLATES HIS OR HER RELIGIOUS BELIEFS AND NOT BE DISCIPLINED FOR REFUSING TO TEACH THE TOPIC;
(VII) WEAR RELIGIOUS JEWELRY; AND
(VIII) USE A RELIGIOUS GREETING AS A RECOGNITION OF A RELIGIOUS HOLIDAY.
That’s enough to give you the general idea. If Dave’s bill becomes law, Colorado schools may become virtual madrasahs, where religious garb, jewelry, chants, and teachings are permitted. Not only that, but teachers can skip lessons — like evolution, biology, astronomy, etc. — that conflict with their religious beliefs.
We’ll be watching this one.
Update: According to the Colorado Independent: Controversial Schultheis public schools religion bill ends in a whimper:
A controversial bill that sought to expand space for religion in Colorado’s public schools failed to make it out of committee Monday. Even before the hearing began, the bill’s sponsor, Christian conservative state Sen. Dave Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs, seemed to have accepted the fact that his “Public School Religious Bill of Rights” would very likely fail to pass and so offered amendments that significantly weakened its provisions. In the end, so little was left of the bill that the majority Democratic committee members said it simply offered no new provisions on the matter. In the end, the four Democrats voted against the bill and the three Republicans voted for it.
The article says that Dave promoted a similar bill in 2007, which also died in committee.
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