A new piece of legislation in Indiana, House Bill 1024, would allow students to pray in school, wear clothing or jewelry with religious symbols, and discuss their faith in assignments.
If your reaction to that is to say That’s already legal… well, you’d be right. This bill is completely unnecessary. But it wrongly suggests that these are rights students don’t already have, creating a bandage for a wound that doesn’t exist.
There’s a strategic side to this, though, since any politician who votes against it could be deemed “anti-Christian” despite agreeing with all the things it says.
But giving Christians the benefit of the doubt here, what’s the point of this legislation? According to people who testified in favor of the bill yesterday, it’ll solve all the problems in the world.
“I believe that school prayer may cause students to acknowledge a power greater than themselves, on which they can rely for comfort and help in times of trouble,” said the Rev. David W. Greene, Sr., president of the Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis, who testified in favor of the bill. “This will lead to decreased reliance on drugs, alcohol, sex and dangerous amusements.”
Greene didn’t explain how the bill would decrease all of those things when the voluntary prayers that are already legal haven’t done a damn thing.
What’s especially scary is that the bill could make things worse for students who aren’t in the religious majority:
“We really believe this bill is trying to recodify or in some way reaffirm things that are already in place,” said David Sklar, government affairs director with the Jewish Community Relations Council. Sklar said the JCRC opposes the bill, which he said seems to be a solution in search of a problem. He said the burden shouldn’t be placed on students — or their parents — to “extricate” the child from unwanted religious instruction at school.
The bill also calls for the creation of a “public forum” for religion, which essentially means that kids could proselytize in any venue where students get to speak, including graduation ceremonies. Schools must create “reasonable accommodations” for students who wish to be excused from such speeches, but those of us who are non-religious know exactly how that plays out: Those in the minority who don’t want to participate are singled out, ridiculed, and mocked by the Christian majority if they dare to walk out.
That’s what this bill would do. Forget protecting religious rights. They already exist. This would make life harder for atheists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and everyone else who doesn’t want to participate in a student-led church service.
Rep. John Bartlett, the politician sponsoring this bill, didn’t mention any of that. He says the bill is designed to prevent school shootings:
“You’ve got 12, 14-year-old kids going to school with a gun. When I was going to school, that did not happen,” he said. Instead of believing in “me and my gun,” he’d prefer to see a belief in a higher power.
If he really cared about that, he’d push for gun safety measures, not pointless prayer bills.
The Education Committee will vote to send the bill to the House floor later today.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)