Arizona Republicans Propose Bill That Would Not Allow Atheists To Graduate High School January 25, 2013

Arizona Republicans Propose Bill That Would Not Allow Atheists To Graduate High School

***Update*** (1/27/14): Just wanted to let everyone know the bill died a while back. Providing the update since this post still gets a lot of views.

A group of Arizona politicians — all Republicans, of course — have proposed a law (House Bill 2467) requiring public high school students to recite the following oath in order to graduate:


I, _______, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge these duties; So help me God.

To quote Comedy Central’s Ilya Gerner: “Nothing says ‘I take this obligation freely’ quite like a state law that withholds your diploma unless you swear an oath.”

Kevin Bondelli adds:

graduating high school is not the same thing as voluntarily accepting the responsibility of a public office or admission to the legal bar. A high school diploma is, with extremely few exceptions, required to have a chance to live above the poverty level. It is the culmination of an education that up until that point was compulsory.

It’s bad enough the Republicans are demanding loyalty of the kind normally reserved for members of Congress and beyond — but there’s also no way I would say those last four words, and the current text of the legislation does not allow for any alternatives.

In other words, if this bill were to become a law, atheists would either not be allowed to graduate… or they would be forced to lie so they could graduate. Neither option is acceptable.

Mike Sunnucks of the Phoenix Business Journal points out another problem:

The Arizona bill could also face legal challenges if it is approved.

Jehovah’s witnesses, some Muslims and pacifist Quakers have in the past challenged loyalty oaths imposed by the federal government and other agencies, saying they conflict with their beliefs and religious professions. Similarly, some Arizona students could challenge the proposed high school oath as a violation of their religious liberties and freedom of expression.

This bill is the work of Representatives Bob Thorpe, Sonny Borrelli, Carl Seel, T.J. Shope, Jeff Dial, David Livingston, Chester Crandell, and Steve Smith.

Smith and Shope have also introduced legislation demanding that all students in grades 1-12 recite the Pledge of Allegiance (with “Under God”) every day. At least in that bill, students can get out of saying it with their parents’ permission.

No such exemption exists in the Loyalty Oath.

Keep in mind that in both cases, the bills do not help children get a better education. That’s the saddest thing about all this. The people who are in charge of fixing the education crisis are proposing solutions that would only waste more classroom time and exclude many students from graduating despite fulfilling their current requirements.

***Update***: While the bill still includes the God language, Think Progress reports that it may be revised:

As written, the bill does not exempt atheist students or those of different faiths from the requirement, though Thorpe has pledged to amend the measure. “In that we had a tight deadline for dropping our bills, I was not able to update the language,” he wrote in an e-mail to the Arizona Republic. “Even though I want to encourage all of our students to understand and respect our Constitution and constitutional form of government, I do not want to create a requirement that students or parents may feel uncomfortable with.”

So it’s possible alternative language may solve the atheist problem, but *requiring* students to take the oath still poses a host of constitutional issues. Another option would be to make the oath optional, but that would make this bill completely irrelevant.

Which would be fine by me.

(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)

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  • Shouldn’t misrepresenting your sanity while running for office be grounds for impeachment?

  • Aquaria

    My mother remembers it, too, and said the old way scanned better, that it was easier to say.

    To this day, she says that the “new” pledge doesn’t sound right.

  • Aquaria

    The IBO site states that the United States has 1486 schools with IB programs. That’s not “just a few”; it’s close to half of all the IB programs in the world, cupcake.

    This is something that is painfully easy to find on the Internet. It’s the very first hit, if you type “international baccalaureate united states.”

    Looks like the one who should be ashamed for being “completely uninformed” isn’t me, cupcake.

  • Aquaria

    I resemble that remark…

  • Aquaria

    School funding in the US is paid almost entirely by local property taxes, and the vast majority of property taxes go to the schools, and not so much to multibillionaires. The local property taxes certainly don’t go into spying on millions of citizens, unless it’s Giuliani’s NYC, back in the day, or to make remote control drones murder children in far off lands.

    I really think you need to re-examine some of your false assumptions, including the one that seems to thinkt only one country does some really awful things.

  • Aquaria

    Oh come on–how could you forget Texas?

  • Aquaria

    He wasn’t any different. I heard Reagan the scumbag’s speeches. You weren’t paying attention if you think he was ANY different from the modern GOP.

    He outright lied, just about every time he opened his scumbag mouth.

    He never missed an opportunity to lie about and slam liberals, women, pro-choice supporters, gays, unions, the workers of America, environmental concerns, the EPA, teachers, ALL civilian government employees–the list was fricking ENDLESS for everyone that scumbag hated and was proud to hate. His hate was so strong for so many people that he couldn’t wait to sock it to them. And he really had it in for the poor and the middle-class, eager to sock it to them so he could hand over THEIR money to the richest of the rich. Sound familiar?

    He was that way, starting with being governor of California, re-indexing the tax brackets to soak the middle-class while cutting taxes for the rich. Yet while raising taxes, he cut services, like mental institutions, and then screamed about how evil the poor were when the crime rates skyrocketed!
    Just WHY do you think the Prop 13 tax revolt came about? It was because Reagan the Scumbag’s policies were killing the middle class in CA, and they were getting NOTHING for it in return!

    He would do the same thing when he was President–the EXACT same thing republicans are doing right fricking now!

    And don’t even get me started on his belligerent and murderous foreign policy, not to mention his insane saber-rattling, so he could take the defense industry from already colossal to fucking obscene.

    REAGAN is the cause for the bitterness, divisiveness and hatefulness in politics these days. He was the master practitioner of it, and the GOP has gleefully adopted the exact same rhetoric that he used!

    Not even Nixon trashed the country or the national discourse the way Reagan the Scumbag did. He was the scummiest, and most destructive President we had ever had–Until George W Bush.

  • Aquaria

    Yeah, that being silent thing works Sooooooo well when everyone in your Texas classroom notices that you don’t say the under genocidal filth line.

    There’s no repercussions to that at all, nope, nosireebob.

  • Aquaria

    To quote someone else up threat: “Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”

    This is unconstitutional, and that’s all it needs to be to get it thrown out.

  • Aquaria

    You’re not entitled to agreement. You have to earn it.

    Do keep up.

  • Aquaria

    Actually, some states have more than a select few who do these things.

    Arizona is one of them.

    My state of Texas is another.

    It’s not something for which you shrug and go on with your life, as if it’s not a big deal–when it is.

  • Gehennah

    While atheists aren’t supposed to be able to hold office, there is no way that the states could actually enforce that.

  • Aquaria

    Oh please. The Democrats are barely moderates, and not extreme at all. You have to be brain dead to think they are.

  • Aquaria

    Yes, because you christards aren’t shrieking about the war on christmas, or how gays are the intolerant ones for expecting to be treated like human beings, or how everyone else is immoral, and you’ve never killed people for disagreeing with you.

    You really need to step back from the stupid pipe and take a deeeeeep breath. It might make your brain turn on again.

  • Baby_Raptor

    is there a reason you’re blowing up a thread that’s almost a year old?

  • Aquaria

    You have to read all of them.

    And it’s not democrats who came up with this thing, is it? When you’re the party that comes up with stupid and/or anti-American crap like this over–and over–and over–and over–and over again, you get criticized for being stupid and anti-American over–and over–and over–and over–and over again.

    You’ve sort of earned it, you see.

    Do keep up.

  • Aquaria

    Do you think it started in the 1950s?

    Because it didn’t. It started long before that.

  • Aquaria

    Just because christers like you don’t have any integrity doesn’t mean we’re lacking in the stuff, cupcake.

    Do keep up.

  • Aquaria

    The genocidal dirtbag in the sky isn’t the one holding diplomas hostages if you don’t say the oath.

    It’s the government. They’re real, and withholding a diploma can have a hugely damaging effect on someone’s life.

    Do keep up.

  • Aquaria

    You hadn’t done that before this?


  • Aquaria

    The law as written didn’t allow that!


  • Aquaria

    Don’t do that. It would make them MORE determined to do it.

  • Aquaria

    Heck, some of the kids graduating aren’t even legally ABLE to commit to such an oath. A lot of them are 17! The oath is worthless for them.

  • Aquaria

    What about the kids who are under 18 and are graduating? You’re going to have to waste money sending forms to all their parents to sign to allow them to make that oath as a minor.

  • Aquaria

    A billion people live without your genocidal filth, ever single day, and they are the least violent, most equitable and enlightened nations on earth.

    Try again, scum.

  • Aquaria

    If you think they didn’t have violence in their lives before the Engels vs Vitale decision, then you are hopelessly ignorant.

    There has ALWAYS been violence And more than the normal share has come from you prayer-packers.

    Talking to air has ZERO effect on violence. Poverty, a huge number of young men under 30, kids growing up in a violent environment, a culture that celebrates violence, a country that celebrates militarism–these are the factors that contribute to violence.

    If you want those things to end, do something about those REAL causes of violence, rather than wasting your time talking to air, cupcake.

  • Aquaria

    How about we not issue diplomas to people who don’t know how to spell?

    Somehow, I don’t think you would be too happy with that one.

  • Aquaria

    I didn’t say the under genocidal filth stuff in the pledge or when I enlisted, and I never had to, and never would have done it.

    Just because you’ll whore your integrity whenever it’s convenient for you doesn’t mean the rest of us are so lacking in honesty and ehtics.

  • Aquaria

    One is most certainly NOT required to say anything about genocidal filth to be sworn into a court of law, to join the military or to become a state employee, lying moron.

    I have taken all of those oaths, since the 80s, cupcake, and I never, ever had to vomit that kind of filth.

    Not once.

  • Aquaria

    Why shouldn’t we speak up when ANYONE violates the Constitution, numbskull, no matter who does it? If we don’t stand up for the Constitution who will?

    This is like Civics 101, cupcake.

    And many of us are worried about BOTH the Constitution and the notion of swearing ANY kind of oath to a government just go get a diploma. We’re smart enough to multi-task, Why aren’t you?

    Yes, if the so help me genocidal sky fairy crap was removed, I would still have a problem with it. I find ALL loyalty oaths for ordinary citizens totalitarian, on their face. These kids are not joining the military, they are not becoming employees of the State, and these kids certainly don’t need to claim loyalty to the state, just to get a certificate for their 12 years of hard work. It’s a dangerous precedent, and you are apparently not bright enough to understand why.

    And your use of “picking on” for what this law could have done is bigoted and insulting. It’s not picking on, lying scum. It’s blatant discrimination that threatens anyone, especially atheists, with the lack of a diploma they need for college or a job, if they don’t swear by a fricking genocidal prick in the sky, moron!

    It’s not about pleasing the people. It’s about NOT TAKING AWAY THEIR FRICKING FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS in the first damned place!

    Can that sink into your dense skull, at all?

  • Aquaria

    Any rational atheist would have the integrity not to lie, especially not that part about a genocidal prick in the sky.

    Maybe your ethics are so corrupt that you’ll tell that kind of lie, but I’m better than that. Why aren’t you?

    What part of that are you too stupid to get?

  • Aquaria

    And have it used against you later when the next round of free- exercise trampling that affects atheists comes up?

    Well you said so help me god, so you can’t complain that you don’t believe in him now!

    Just because you’re willing to lie, doesn’t mean that the rest of us are so lacking in integrity.

    Be a corrupt liar with no ethics if you want. Don’t expect me to be one, too, to please a bunch of deluded idiots.

  • Aquaria

    Mennonites, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Christian Scientists wouldn’t be able to, either.

  • Aquaria

    Texas. By a long shot.

    You’ve got Southern hillbilly combined with Western Yee-haw stupid in one state. The confluence of double inbred makes the state especially boneheaded.

  • Aquaria

    You’re a complete moron who needs to stop watching the boob tube. It’s making you dumber than you already are.

    I have been to court, scumbag. I was the VICTIM in a case. I did NOT have to say anything about your genocaidal filth in the sky to take the stand, moron.

    I served in the miltary, something I doubt you’ve done. I didn’t have to address your scumbag in the sky when I did the oath then, either.

    And if you want to swear to do the right thing, then the LAST thing you should use as a metaphor for that is the murderous thug deity of the genocidal hate manual.

  • Aquaria

    But it’s not just politicians proposing it, cupcake. It was REPUBLICANS.

    Do keep up.

  • Aquaria

    I’d call them a liar and morally bankrupt as well.

    But that’s just me.

  • Aquaria

    Don’t think that it’s a mistake that they are coming up with all these dumb laws, that the government has to defend in court.

    Part of what they’re up to is bankrupting the government, little by little. in the hope that the government won’t be able to fight them anymore, and they can have their way at last.

    Never trust any christ-thumpers in government, any further than you can throw them. I’m not talking about the Christians who believe in separation of church and state. The other ones. The evil ones who want to make this into a jesusized Saudi Arabia.

  • Aquaria

    If you don’t believe in said deity, then you have no integrity, and will lie as easily as you breathe.

    Congratulations. You’re morally bankrupt.

  • Aquaria

    The moment of silence is a waste of time. Kids who want to talk to air have numerous opportunities for it throughout the school day. Spend that time teaching instead.

    They’re there to learn, not sit around doing nothing.

  • Aquaria

    The law would deny a high school diploma to atheist children who had the kind of integrity that wouldn’t let them lie about that genocidal scumbag stuff, and this law made ZERO accommodation for not saying that filth.

    Ergo, the title is dead on, moron.

  • .
    If the only reason you are honest is fear of an external god, then you have no integrity, you have extegrity only, where you are without morals, only having fear.

    Someone who holds their moral compass inside them has true integrity since they do not depend on anything external for their morals.

    If anyone chooses to keep their prayer or non-prayer private, that should be their choice without scrutiny and invasion into their privacy from teachers and fellow students.

  • I think lying to idiots is OK, because if you don’t lie in that case you may not get a diploma that YOU EARNED.

  • DanV

    This will get a lot of voters to become Democrats.

  • wialno28

    For me (I am also an atheist), it’s not about the fact that the words are meaningless. It’s about the fact that other people ascribe meaning to it. It’s about the fact that if I just say the words because that’s what people expect and I don’t want to rock the boat, that I’m going to feel like a coward. It’s about my personal integrity and not being forced to participate in something I don’t agree with. It’s about the fact that NO ONE, atheist or otherwise, should be looked at as less patriotic or deserving because they do not want to say some “magic words.” I know that saying it doesn’t mean I agree with it, but I shouldn’t be forced to say it in the first place. To me, that is a fundamental part of being an American.

  • wialno28

    Times really have changed, haven’t they?

  • As an atheist also, it’s not a matter of personal belief, but personal honor. It would be a lie. If the last lesson we teach these kids, before handing them their diploma, is that it’s acceptable, or necessary to lie to get what you want, (even if that lie is only to oneself) then we have failed them.

  • There is nothing logical in what you stated. Unlike Thegreatbobo, I would not swear any oath I did not intend to keep. However, swearing an oath to imaginary being would, to me, lack any meaning. My morality and integrity belong to me, and have nothing to do with any creation myth. I need neither the threat of hell, nor the promise of heaven.

  • There is nothing legally barring any atheist from office. Getting superstitious voters to vote for one, however…

  • Gehennah

    True, but we are slowing becoming more accepted.

  • Henk Um

    By proposing laws like this, these people are breaking their oath to uphold the constitution. They therefor should be removed from office.
    Propose a bill for that.

  • jwhitehawke

    This article is very informative. It reminds people that there are a myriad of collectives ready to divide and dumb down America. Atheism, Islam, Christianity, witchcraft, socialism are filled with millions who can’t think for themselves and live as individuals.
    ALL leaders of these collectives are predators. All followers are sheep. When (you) become part of these ‘collectives’ you take on all their baggage.
    As an individual, I will try to be pleasant to (you) collectivists no matter what you do or don’t believe in.
    As long as people are sheep, America will lose our identity of unique individualism and freedom.

  • According to your criteria, simply having an opinion (other than yours, I assume) makes one a sheep. It’s a wonderful, if pointless, arrogance.

  • Christopher Griswold

    What language and what phrase? I would love to add it to my vocabulary.

  • Irena Weygold

    When I visited my father in Germany in 1980 he said that Reagan scared the hell out of him, that he had his finger too close to the trigger, and that if or when another world war broke out it would be fought right over my father’s head and he certainly did not want to live through a third world war, this one could be the end of humanity. He also worried about his daughter living in a place with a maniac at the helm.

  • Irena Weygold

    and Jesus, if he existed, was a socialist

  • Irena Weygold

    Ever think that there are kids in school who are not citizens but legal residents? Do you expect them to also swear a loyalty oath to this country when their citizenship is elsewhere? And by the way, these legal kids attend school here because their parents are working here for a certain length of time and they are REQUIRED to attend school here. So if one of them has enough credits to graduate he or she can do so. This stupid law would make that inpossible.

  • Irena Weygold

    yeah, remember the slogan of the Vietnam War era: America, love it or leave it. It was stupid then and it is stupid now.o

  • Irena Weygold

    Oh please, on which country would you like to impose these imbeciles?

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