As we discussed previously, Tennessee is doing all it can to violate the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution by pushing an anti-science legislation onto the public school students of the state. They want teachers to allow discussion of the non-existent “scientific controversy” regarding the origin of life, evolution and climate change. The only controversy is in the deluded brains of Republican legislators pushing the religious agenda of the fundamentalist Christians.
As I suspected, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Tennessee branch, has decided to weigh-in on the bill. In a statement, Protect All Students’ Religious Freedom, the ACLU said:
it is an unnecessary and unconstitutional attempt to subject public school students to prayer and proselytizing during school events. It will cause confusion for schools that want to comply with the federal law and constitutional guarantees.
Students’ right to express and practice their religious faith in the public schools is already well-protected by existing law. The First Amendment protects students’ voluntary ability to pray and express religious viewpoints. The U.S. Constitution, the Tennessee Constitution and federal laws already guarantee that Tennessee public school students cannot be denied the right to pray individually or in groups or to discuss their religious views with their peers as long as they are not disruptive.
The required model policy would result in religious coercion of students, who could be subjected to unwarranted prayer and proselytizing in a variety of inappropriate settings, including the classroom, school-day assemblies, and school events. Under the Establishment Clause, students may not be subjected to unwanted prayer and proselytizing as a condition of attending public schools.
Students of minority religious faiths or a non-believer may be routinely required to accept religious messages or participate in religious exercises that conflict with their own religious beliefs. Conversely, if a student of a minority religious faith (e.g., a Muslim, Wiccan, Buddhist, etc.) or a non-believer were to obtain a so-called “position of honor,” as defined under the bill, that student would be permitted to subject all classmates to prayer and proselytizing specific to his or her faith tradition and beliefs in connection with school events. In both cases, parents would have no recourse to ensure that their children were not coerced into such religious exercise.
Passage of this type of law would divide communities along religious lines and result in costly litigation for school districts from a variety of sources, including students and parents upset about being subjected to proselytization, and students excluded from speaking or limited in their speech by the legislation. Litigation of these issues has proved to be costly and prolonged.
Implementing the requirements of the legislation will further drain schools’ already limited resources and distract officials from their educational responsibilities. Schools will be forced to set up a pseudo-forum for nearly every school event. This will involve designing and carrying out new systems for selecting speakers, assigning them to particular events, and monitoring their speech to ensure that it complies with the limitations imposed.
Because the Republican legislators are cowards, they probably did not provide funding to each school district that will be sued for violating the constitution, costing each district millions to defend their implementation of the law. If you are a Tennessee resident, contact the ACLU to give them your support. If you’re not, contact the ACLU and give them your support.
To quote, Andrew Shepherd in The American President, “For the record: yes, I am a card-carrying member of the ACLU. But the more important question is why aren’t you, Bob? Now, this is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights, so it naturally begs the question: Why would a senator, his party’s most powerful spokesman and a candidate for President, choose to reject upholding the Constitution?”
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