Because Montana has nothing else to worry about, Republicans are trying to inject God into the public schools and they’re using a moment of silence to make it happen.
HB 543, sponsored by Republican State Rep. Bob Phalen, has already passed the State House. It would force all K-12 students to say the Pledge of Allegiance every day (instead of once a week as is currently the case for older kids), and it would also allow districts to follow the Pledge with a moment of silence.
So far, all of this is a giant waste of time. It’s not illegal though.
But now that the bill is being debated in the State Senate, it’s clear Republicans want to head in that direction. On Monday, State Rep. Scot Kerns offered up an amendment to the bill that would unnecessarily add a “moment of silent prayer” to the bill.
The new wording of the bill would say:
… the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the United States of America must be recited in all public schools of the state and may be followed by a moment of silence. This may include a moment of silent prayer.
There is absolutely no reason to add that wording. It’s literally specifying a kind of silence for no reason other than to remind everyone this is about Christian Nationalism. (It’s not like it says “This may include a moment of silent reflection.”)
It turns a waste of time into a religious waste of time.
And lucky for lawyers across the country, Phalen made it abundantly clear that he supported the amendment because it would specifically push his God into public schools. Here’s the relevant exchange from Monday’s discussion.
Phalen said all the quiet parts out loud about why he wanted the amendment included in his bill:
… Because I think it was 50 years ago, they took God out of school. Maybe it’s not quite 50, but close. But anyway, you can see what kind of Hell our country is going through right now, and so, I just feel… it’s been said that the Indians… this is a silent prayer. Or a moment of silence — it doesn’t say prayer right now — but if there’s an amendment added, that would be a moment of silent prayer…
And who knows what you’re gonna say? You might just sit there in a moment of silence! You might… you know, I mean, not everybody’s gonna pray, and they’re not gonna be praying out loud because it says a moment of silence. So…
I just think it’s time to get God back in school in some form or fashion.
This is dear to me… I was asked where I got this idea, and it was listening to the David Barton and Rick Green series because Rick Green did it in Texas, and since he done it in Texas, and then several other states followed, then I thought this state [will] follow also.
He’s citing widely discredited Christian liar and pseudo-historian David Barton and Christian Nationalist Rick Green as the inspirations for this bill. Yikes.
He’s explaining his rationale by saying he wants to push God in school. Double yikes.
He’s also lying about how atheists “took God out of school.” That never happened. Mandatory Bible readings were stopped. That’s all. Kids have always been permitted to pray in school, read a Bible during their down time, have after school Bible clubs, etc. Phalen is either too ignorant about all this or too dumb to do any research.
Phalen is also lying about Texas. They don’t have a moment of “silent prayer.” They have a moment of silence, period. Even Texas isn’t stupid enough to do something like that.
But Montana very well may be.
No wonder Lance Melton, executive director of the Montana School Boards Association, interjected with a warning during the discussion:
[Melton stated] that the bill’s original language regarding a “moment of silence” was probably OK, as it does not convey a religious purpose. But, he continued, the amendment would likely run afoul of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that such endorsements violate the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause.
As of this writing, the amendment hasn’t been approved or added to the bill. But if and when that happens, and if this bill passes, you can bet church/state separation groups will be all over it. It’s a clear-cut violation of the law.
The bill does nothing useful for students. But Republicans have made it clear they don’t care about using students as pawns as long as it means promoting Barton-style Christian Nationalism.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)