South Carolina’s 2017 ‘Academic Freedom’ Bill

There hasn’t been any creationist news in South Carolina for a couple of years, but now it looks like they’ve won the race to be the first state to consider a crazed piece of creationist legislation for the coming year.

In the The State, published in the capital city of Columbia, South Carolina, this headline appeared a couple of days ago: Should SC teachers express religious views? It briefly mentions three pre-filed bills. Only the first of those interests us, so here’s all we found relevant in the newspaper article:

S.C. House members filed bills this week ahead of the legislative session that starts next month. Those proposals would:

[First bill:] Allow teachers to express religious viewpoints

Reps. Bill Chumley, R-Spartanburg; Mike Burns, R-Greenville; and Stephen Long, R-Spartanburg — are sponsoring a proposal to allow a public school teacher to express a religious viewpoint, and participate in any student-led prayer or student-organized prayer groups or religious clubs.

That’s all they say, so we went looking around. At the South Carolina legislature’s website we found some information about the three geniuses who are behind this bill. They’re all Republicans, and none (as of now) is a member of any education committee. James Mikell “Mike” Burns is described as a “businessman” who is also “Member, Sunday School Teacher, Deacon, Trustee and Treasurer at Enoree Baptist Church, 1959-”

William M. “Bill” Chumley is a “Landscaping/Farmer” who is a “Deacon, Poplar Springs Baptist Church.” Steven Wayne Long is a “businessman,” and a member of the Boiling Springs First Baptist Church.

This is the text of: House Bill H 3345. It’s very short. We added a bit of bold font for emphasis:

A BILL TO AMEND THE CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, BY ADDING SECTION 59-1-444 SO AS TO PROMOTE ACADEMIC FREEDOM FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS BY PROVIDING PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS MAY CONDUCT OR PARTICIPATE IN ANY STUDENT-LED PRAYER, STUDENT-ORGANIZED PRAYER GROUPS, RELIGIOUS CLUBS, AND OTHER SIMILAR ACTIVITIES.

Whereas, the South Carolina General Assembly finds that the concept of academic freedom is derived from the guarantee of free speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which also permits the free exercise of religious beliefs, among other things; and

Whereas, the South Carolina General Assembly finds that academic freedom by teachers is important to the mission of schools as well as the principles of academia, and that teachers should have freedom to teach or communicate ideas or facts, including those that are inconvenient to external political groups or to authorities, without being targeted for repression, job loss, or imprisonment, and that this right to expression includes the right to express or exercise a religious belief. Now, therefore,

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:

SECTION 1. Article 5, Chapter 1, Title 59 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding: “Section 59-1-444. A teacher employed by a public school district may express a religious viewpoint, and also may conduct or participate in any student-led prayer or student-organized prayer groups, religious clubs, or other religious gatherings organized by students of a public school pursuant to Section 59-1-435, Section 59-1-441, or Section 59-1-442, or another provision of law.”

SECTION 2. This act takes effect upon approval by the Governor.

That’s the whole thing. It’s been referred to the Committee on Education and Public Works. We think that with this link the progress of the bill can be tracked: H 3345 General Bill, By Chumley, Burns and Long.

If it passes, it would literally let the state’s public schools become the equivalent of Sunday schools. The bill isn’t limited as to any specific religion, so there may be some debate about what “academic freedom” means in this context. The South Carolina legislative session for 2017 convenes on 10 January and is scheduled adjourn on 01 June. It should be interesting to see what happens to this legislative masterpiece.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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11 responses to “South Carolina’s 2017 ‘Academic Freedom’ Bill

  1. I wonder how those Baptist boys would feel if the Pentecostal teacher started praying in tongues.

  2. I also wonder how those Baptist boys would feel if a female teacher started “teaching” about the Bible.

  3. I’m sure students would love to have a Wiccan teacher. Or, maybe start class with Buddhist meditation.

    Perhaps teachers could orient the desks in their classrooms toward Mecca and, at the appropriate time of day, lead a prayer (all in good taste, of course).

    What an opportunity for diverse religions to educate those Baptist children!

  4. … And begin their prayer with a Sign of the Cross.

  5. Can’t wait for the 1st hindodo or isLame teacher to let loose!!! The law will be changed very quickly. Its amazing how xtian can be so dimwitted!
    ANd apologies to the dimwits, for the comparison to xtians.

  6. Holding The Line In Florida

    But, but there is only one true religion, everyone knows that! Just different Paths to Righteousness! In South Kakalacky, they have all types of religions, Presbryterian, Baptist AND Methodist! Of course a Gentleman chooses the Episcopalian way. As they used to say before the War of Northern Agression. T’aint no others! Sho Nuf!!

  7. Derek Freyberg

    Fortunately, the South Carolina legislature is not going to be the institution that has the last word on the topic.

  8. My wife taught elementary school in South Carolina a few years back. It was this time of year when they would teach about different holidays during a social studies lesson, and they discussed different family traditions. A colleague told her that all the students in her class were Christian but two: one was Jewish and one was Catholic.

    I wish I were kidding.

    I could also tell the story of a conversation I overheard in a restaurant on the Saturday after Barack Obama was elected the first time. I’m sure many of you could guess its theme – and the choice epithet.

  9. Jack Chick told us that Christianity is not a religion.

  10. We all know that this bill is designed to let evangelicals preach in public schools. There’s no question that other religions would not be tolerated–that’s clearly not what this bill is for.

    Can you imagine the outrage if someone started preaching Judaism or Buddhism? Or telling Old Man Coyote stories? Particularly the very ribald ones?

    And can you imagine the costs to the public school systems, if this becomes law, when the legal challenges land on them like a ton of ripe manure?

  11. Oh, let it be so. And why wait until it becomes law?