The Edmond Sun

Opinion

March 7, 2008

Bill promotes school religion at expense of education

EDMOND — The Oklahoma House of Representatives Education Committee has just approved House Bill 2211. The bill is expected to pass the full House, and then to go to the Senate. Its authors describe it as promoting freedom of religion in the public schools. In fact, it does the opposite.

HB 2211 is identical to bills widely introduced into state legislatures across the nation, where they have met various fates. Texas’s Legislature passed it, and Texas is experiencing serious problems as a result. Liberty Legal Institute of Plano, Texas, a group of fundamentalist Christian lawyers, drafted the bill and promoted to legislatures, including Oklahoma’s. It was not written by its Oklahoma legislative “authors.”

The bill requires public schools to guarantee students the right to express their religious viewpoints in a public forum, in class, in homework and in other ways without being penalized. If a student’s religious beliefs were in conflict with scientific theory, and the student chose to express those beliefs rather than explain the theory in response to an exam question, the student’s incorrect response would be deemed satisfactory, according to this bill.

The school would be required to reward the student with a good grade, or be considered in violation of the law. Even simple, factual information such as the age of the earth (4.65 billion years) would be subject to the student’s belief, and if the student answered 6,000 years based on his or her religious belief, the school would have to credit it as correct. Science education becomes absurd under such a situation.

If a student chose to take his opportunity to speak to a group of students in a school-sanctioned assembly to tell them they must accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior or go to hell, then that student would have a right to do so, according to this bill. Especially, but not only if the student held a position of honor and authority (class officer, team captain), and was speaking in his or her official capacity, the school has clearly established religion in violation of both the U.S. and Oklahoma constitutions.

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