More Dangerous Silliness from the Religious Right

I just got this in a message from the Center for Inquiry about measures before the Florida Legislature:

“Legislation that would grant special privileges to religious beliefs in public schools has been introduced by Florida Rep. Kimberly Daniels (D-Jacksonville), and Sen. Dennis Baxely (R-Ocala).

The sponsors of the “Florida Student and School Personnel Religious Liberties Act” (HB 303 and SB 436) claim the measures would protect the religious liberty of students, parents, and teachers. In fact, the proposals would place religion on a pedestal, allowing students and teachers alike to turn the classroom into their pulpit.

These religious privilege bills could:

  • Allow teachers to promote religious viewpoints to students (for example, telling LGBTQ students they are destined for Hell);
  • Allow students to demand teachers grade science papers based on religious ideas as if those claims are as legitimate as those based on science and evidence (for example, that God created all life in its present form 6,000 years ago);
  • Undermine efforts to stop the bullying of marginalized students;
  • Pollute the teaching of basic science and history with dogma and myth; and
  • Sanction school-sponsored and teacher-led prayers and religious meetings.”

What is really disturbing about this silliness, besides the fact that it would make a mockery of the teaching of science and history, is how it perverts the idea of religious freedom. Freedom of religion means the freedom to follow your conscience without fear or favor from the government. It does not mean that you have the right to co-opt public institutions (e.g. public schools) or public employees (e.g. public school teachers) to inculcate or affirm your religious convictions, to tun the classroom into a pulpit as it says above. The freedom of religion is far too important to be trivialized in this way. Though the sponsors claim to support religious liberties, in fact they undermine them by equating them with such silliness as being allowed to say in science class that the world is 6000 years old or talk about the parting of the Red Sea in history class.

The obvious corollary to these measures is that a Muslim or Hindu student should also expect to be graded in accordance with the teachings of the Quran or the Mahabharata. It would be fun to see how this would turn out and how the sponsors of the bill would react to that result.