It looks like legislation concerning public prayer is all the rage. The Texas House has just passed legislation that would force schools to develop a religious expression policy within the guidelines set by the law.
“CSHB 3678 is an anti-discrimination bill that would serve to protect a student’s voluntary expression of religious viewpoints. The bill would not require or suggest that students express religious viewpoints at any time, but would protect students should they decide voluntarily to express their views, religious or otherwise. Under the bill, school children wishing to express their religious views would have the same privileges afforded to students expressing secular views.”
The legislation was opposed by some lawmakers who feared that it just might allow minority religious views to be heard.
“Opponents say that the bill further erodes the separation of church and state. They note that as an unintended consequence, school districts could find themselves obligated to give Wiccans or those with anti-Christian views a chance to lead prayers before football games. ‘What are you going to do the first year that a Wiccan calls upon the great mother goddess to watch over the students that day?’ said Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth. ‘You are not prepared to have schools inclusive enough to meet the law.'”
But they shouldn’t worry about Wiccans giving the opening prayer at a football game or at a graduation ceremony. The House’s own research organization warns that it will most likely privilege the Christian majority, and may be unconstitutional.
“The bill’s constitutionality is questionable … The bill could serve as a tool to proselytize the majority religious view, Christianity, in Texas schools. The United States is a nation made up of people of many faiths. Children are required to attend school and should be permitted to do so without someone else’s religion being imposed on them … A school should be a religion-free zone – leaving religion for homes, places of worship, and individual hearts.”
So like pending legislation in South Carolina, this law is constructed to further privilege the Christian majority, not to safeguard the rights of religious minorities. Gov. Rick Perry, a supporter of the legislation, thinks this is just dandy.
“Freedom of religion should not be mistaken for freedom from religion and I want to thank the more than 100 members of the Texas House who voted to give religious expression in our schools the same protection as secular expression”
No doubt a “teacher’s religious expression” bill is being written as we speak so as to erase any doubt that schools in Texas are secular institutions.