Thursday, April 12, 2007

Charlie Howard’s HB 3678: Intrusive and Absurd

I really don’t like Texas State Rep. Charlie Howard’s latest abomination. It attempts to codify things in the state’s Education Code that should really be a local issue. Among other things, it demands that districts provide forums for student expression of religious belief. It sets standards for students who speak at graduation ceremonies. It forbids vulgar obscene language. It sets standards on what students may address in introductory remarks. It is, quite frankly, intrusive. Oddly, Howard’s bill finds he and I on non-traditional opposing sides. Howard, the staunch conservative should not be in favor of big government and big government’s intrusion into local issues. I, in this case, defend the local school district’s right to set policy based on community standards and mores.

Rep. Howard, butt out. We don’t need you to tell every school district in Texas how to deal with our students.

But what I really don’t like about Charlie Howard’s HB 3678, which he calls both “Marian’s Law” and the “Religious Viewpoint Anti-Discrimination Act” are these two titles.

First, who the heck is Marian? I Googled “Marian’s Law” and came up with nada. Nothing that has to do with religious expression anyway.

Second. What discrimination? Is Charlie Howard buying into that religious right dogma that Christians are somehow being discriminated against? Is that not just the most ridiculous notion? Discrimination? Absurd! Christians are the oppressed minority? How can that be? In this country, Christians represent 83% of the population. Christians are a colossal majority. They have all the power. They dominate every major facet of American life (except for, perhaps, having an effect on what takes place in synagogues and mosques). But here is Charlie Howard whining that Christians are being discriminated against.

There is no secret progressive policy to suppress the Christian religion. None. Howard is full of it, or perhaps, full of himself. What the problem is, is simply this. Teachers and administrators are woefully uninformed about how to handle religion in public schools. It may have happened on more than one occasion that a student expressed a religious viewpoint in an essay, a speech, or classroom discussion, and the teacher reacted with the false idea that the student may not do this in a public school, and suppressed the student’s expression. I’ve heard of it happening. But that is because the teacher is uninformed.

Here is what a teacher cannot do. A teacher cannot lead a religious discussion, cannot advocate a religion, cannot promote one religion in preference to another. A teacher is in an unique position of authority, and cannot use that position to promote or demote, a religion.

And that’s it.

Nothing is broken. You don’t need to fix this with a bill.

You need a fifteen minute presentation to teachers at a faculty meeting to tell them what the rules are, and what they aren’t.


Van said...

Charlie is the one who needs an inservice. He is just tooting his horn and reminding his constituents that he is alive, working and promoting bills with the words "Christianity" in them so the right-wingnuts will remember to keep voting for him. Honestly, do you want your child taught by a teacher who doesn't know this already? That's a frightening thought. What's more frightening are the number of parents who do not not know the amendments to the US Constitution, in which one covers this already. They love our country, love our Constitution (complete with amendments), vote and yet demand we have prayer in school. Go to a country, or make your own new country, that allows that. BTW, I'd love to hear from Charlie which school allows vulgar obscene language that requires a bill to change its rule.

A High School Student said...

There are many flaws in your facts regarding HB3678. 1st off, HB678 codifies Supreme Court rulings in regard to the Freedom of Religion/Expression. HB3678 is an ANTI-Discriminatory Bill that protects the religious expression of students in public schools throughout Texas.
This Bill does not endorse a religion , rather it allows a student to express religious beliefs (granted to the student per the United States Constitution). All religions are represented in HB3678. Whether you are a Muslim, Jew, Christian, Atheist or follow any other religion, HB3678 allows you to share your beliefs without the fear of punishment.

Fact: School children are being banned from uttering any words related to religion. This is flat out ILLEGAL! They are being reprimanded at school for religious speech, leaving them in fear of punishment.

Fact: Katy ISD, teacher throws away two Bibles belonging to students. This is a clear violation of the 1st Amendment.

Fact: There is far too much hostility toward religious expression and lack of understanding by school districts, and because of this, school children are being forced to defend their 1st Amendment rights in courtrooms all across Texas, and throughout the nation. These acts have led to litigation that should have never been necessary.

In closing: HB3678 is an anti-discrimination bill protecting students' VOLUNTARY expressions of faith-based viewpoints. School children don't seek special rights, just equal rights; don't seek special protection, just equal protection; don't seek preferential treatment, just equal treatment.

Court Cases relating to HB3678:
A. government officials: Engel v. Vitale, 3.70 U.S. 421 (1962).
B. deliver a religious message: Abington Sch. Dist. v Schempp 374 U.S. 203 (1963).
C. Zorach v. Clauson. 343 U.S. 306 (1952).
D. Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290 (2000.

Marian's Law: Refers to Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290 (2000. A case heard before the United States Supreme Court: "policy permitting student-led, student-initiated prayer at football games violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment."
Verdict in favor (6-3) of "Doe." The Santa Fe School District was required to pay all legal fees, taking hundreds of thousands of dollars away from public school funding.

Hal said...

Wow high school student, that was one long comment. I suppose I should find another category for those who want to leave tomes.

My facts are fine. In your own comment you say that what the teachers are doing are illegal and violations of the 1st amendment. Absolutely true. That's why Howard's bill is nothing other than grandstanding for his ultra-right religious constituency. These things are already covered in law.

My point, and you seem to have missed it, is that there is a poor understanding, on the part of teachers, of what separation of church and state means in terms of classroom policy. All that they really need is a clarification of what they cannot do, and what can be allowed. Teachers are not lawyers and are subject to making mistakes like the ones you mentioned. They just need some enlightenment.

You also seem to have missed, or ignored, my point that Howard's bill is big government intrusion into areas that should properly be handled locally - to suit the local community's values.

Now get off the internet and go study!

Rhiis D. Lopez said...

Great blog. Unfortunately, my total lack of knowledge on everything and anything Texan makes most of your entries foreign to me, but I do enjoy your writing voice and the way you weave your words.

It never ceases to amaze me how Christians still pull the "we're being persecuted" gag, as if it really has any truth. They believe they're still being fed to the lions - the "godless" Roman empire is now America separating church and State. One proof of how Christianity really does dominate the media and minds of America is the fact that the voice of atheism rarely gets a chance to be heard. It's spat upon and ignored before it can even surface, and then this herd has the nerve to claim that THEY are the persecuted ones! They are the persecutors and those who do not conform to their own special ideology and agenda are the persecuted. Christianity IS the Roman empire now. If feeding folks to big kitties were not frowned upon today, we'd be sitting in a football stadium, hotdog in one hand and a beer in the other, and watching the Muslims and atheists being devoured.

I imagine my flesh would be quite tasty with a splash of A1 sauce.

I said...

What? How does Christianity dominate the media? I rarely ever see any reference to Christian ideals in the media, and even if there is, which there probably is, they're not that common. I'd say that I see atheism on TV way more often. Atheism is the denial of any deity, and there are plenty of non-religious things in the media. The entire Hollywood/celebrity scene is a product of Atheism; you never hear about Lindsay Lohan going to church. Also, the whole thing about people being fed to lions was a pagan invention; it goes against Christian ideals now or in ancient times to do that. I'd hardly say that Atheism is spat upon. I've never seen that happen. I have seen a Christian and an Atheist debate about the existence of God, but that can hardly be called spitting on Atheism, since Christianity was being questioned as well. (btw, the Atheist sparked the debate)

I'm not sure whether to say that Atheism is always being practiced or never, since a lot of people say that Atheism isn't a belief.

Hal said...

I have to leave a comment here because the previous commenter chose to use the handle "I". "I" is not me, the original blogger. When you see my posts, you see "Hal".

I agree with "I", however, in this one sense. Atheism is a belief. To believe that there is a deity is just as strong as a disbelief that there is no deity in existence.

There is a middle ground that I espouse. There are things that we have not yet been able to explain. There is enough evidence that some people have premonitions. Some people see people who have died. Those things I think we can all agree to be true unless there are those of us who believe that these presences are the work of Satan.

And there are those out there.

We don't have all the facts and there are lots of things out there that we cannot explain with present-day science.

But let's not leave those things to people who want to make a few bucks, OK? And that extends from the 10th century monk who transcribed the works of St. Jerome. I am a follower of Thomas Paine, who wrote the pre-Revolutionary War pamphlet "Common Sense". I hold that religion is all about money and power, just as are politics. My compadre Tom Paine held similar views.

Neither of us profit from that view.