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Religious Bill of Rights… huh?

Yesterday, Phil Plait posted about people in Colorado proposing a “Religious Bill of Rights” for public schools, an idea which sounded disturbing even before I read the text. After reading it, it was pretty evident that the bill is a monument to absurdity. As Phil said, it’s simply not needed and some of the items are basic issues of freedom of speech. However, other items are “unacceptable.”

Phil does a good job of pointing out which items are questionable, which are irrelevant, and which are absurd, so I’ll leave you to your own devices to check out what he says.

However, the “Legislative declaration” section of the bill also does a reasonable job of pointing out its own irrelevance.

For instance (yes, it’s in all caps):

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.

Religious rights are coming under increasing attack? Perhaps a more accurate statement would be “Attempts to inject religious preference into public schools are being denied.” That aside, if individuals are unaware of their Constitutional rights, perhaps, instead of creating a separate (and silly) “religious” bill of rights, students rights could be “recognized, promoted, and enforced” based on the actual documents used to found and govern this country. I think that would probably be a better use of time and money.

And again…

IT IS BENEFICIAL TO RAISING MORALS AND OBEDIENCE WITHIN THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS TO FOSTER AN ATMOSPHERE THAT RECOGNIZES AND ENCOURAGES THE CONCEPT AND UNDERSTANDING OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY THAT WAS SO IMPORTANT TO THE FOUNDERS OF OUR NATION;

I’m afraid this points seems a bit incongruent. Morals and obedience increase with an understanding of religious liberty? The whole statement makes me vaguely uncomfortable and I’m not sure whether it’s because of its general incoherence or because its subtle combination of “obedience” and “religion” sounds darkly theocratic (to say the least).

Phil points out…

And the most pernicious part of all this is it’s clear that the motivation behind this bill is not in the name of religious freedom and tolerance, it’s in the name of freedom and tolerance for one specific religion. As I point out above, I don’t think a radical Muslim would be treated the same way under this declaration as a Christian would. While that may be outside the scope of the bill, it’s important to keep in mind.

Anyway, the entire point has become a mere speed bump in the rearview mirror because the bill has died in committee. Or, as the official statement reads, it has been “postponed indefinitely.” It was rejected on a party-line 4-3 vote, unsurprisingly, but was rejected nonetheless.

When something like this gets full support from Republicans, I often wonder why. Does it show a lack of understanding of our Constitution? Do they really think our country should be a theocracy? Do they really want all non-Christian religions subjugated? Do they really, truly believe that  imposing the Christian religion on everyone is good for this country? Are they so, so blinded by religious fervor that they cannot understand the secular guarantees provided in our country’s founding documents?

I’ll close with the words of Mike Wagner, one of the commenters on Phil’s blog…

“The fact that 3 people voted for it makes me sick to my stomach.”

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