You remember the weird creationism bills pending in the Florida legislature that we recently wrote about in Florida Bills Allow Religion in Public Schools? Well, now there’s a similar bill in Kentucky.
We learned about this from the website of WUKY, a radio station run by the University of Kentucky, but it’s also part of National Public Radio. Their headline is Ky. Senator: Christians Are Ones ‘Being Persecuted’ In Schools . Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:
The Kentucky Senate signed off Friday on a bill designed to clarify and defend students’ right to voluntarily express religious and political beliefs at public schools and universities, but detractors only anticipate more confusion.
The Republican-led chamber overwhelmingly favored Senate Bill 17, which asserts the right of students to voice religious and political viewpoints in school assignments, on clothing, in extracurricular groups after school, and as part of artistic or theatrical performances. Under the bill, teachers using the Bible to teach classes on religion or U.S. history would be protected, as long as they don’t “provide religious instruction.”
Here’s the text of Senate Bill 17. Among other things, it allows students to:
Express religious or political viewpoints in classroom, homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination or penalty based on the religious or political content of the submissions.
Isn’t that great? The kiddies can fill their homework with all the neat science they learned at Hambo’s Creation Museum. Then WUKY says:
Bill sponsor Albert Robinson says the measure only rewords and codifies protections already present in the state Constitution, but maintains it’s necessary to help protect schools like W.R. Castle Elementary School in Johnson County. The school removed scriptural references from a performance of A Charlie Brown Christmas in 2015 over worries about their legality, sparking public backlash and protest. The London lawmaker argues that Christians are walking on eggshells in schools.
Here’s the legislature’s page for Senator Albert Robinson. The biographical information says only: “Born December 19, 1938. Self employed. Pentecostal. 33 degree Mason. Knoxville Scottish Rite.”
Back to the radio station, which tells us:
Though Robinson maintains the new language will provide clearer guidelines for students and schools, Kate Miller with American Civil Liberties Union predicts the bill will only muddy the waters. “Senate Bill 17 doesn’t do anything to enhance those rights, but will likely instead create confusion about what is constitutionally permissible in the classroom and it will invite legal challenges about the manner in which it’s implemented,” she says.
If the thing becomes law and gets litigated, this next excerpt from the radio station might be interesting evidence of legislative intent:
Asked if the bill might provide legal grounds for students to challenge answers on tests – for example, a creationist student who disagrees with a science teacher about the age of the earth – Robinson said the student should be free to repeat what was learned in class while appending his or her opinion without fear of reprisal.
“What I would do if I was answering, I’d say, ‘Well, according to my beliefs it’s 6,000 [years old], but according to what you say it’s more,'” the lawmaker told WUKY. “You still answered a question and it would be retaliation if they were to say you’ve got to believe what I believe and you can’t believe what you believe.” But Robinson adds, “A teacher, if they had respect, they would go ahead and respect and admire a student who thought for themselves.”
Obviously, Robinson is a young-Earth creationist. But you already guessed that, didn’t you? One more excerpt:
Similar bills received the stamp of approval in the GOP-led upper chamber during previous sessions, only to falter in the Democratic House. With Republicans’ total control of the legislature in 2017, SB17 is likely to find a more receptive audience on the opposite end of the Capitol.
Use this link to follow the status and history of Senate Bill 17. The Kentucky legislature is scheduled to adjourn on 30 March, so there’s time for this bill to become law. With Florida considering similar legislation, bills like this could become a trend. We’ll be watching.
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