Friday, December 13, 2013

A waste of state resources

Over and over, of late, we hear about state legislators in diverse states around the US passing laws to allow school-sanctioned prayers (and other things, such as christian icons) into public schools.   What really puzzles and frustrates me about this is that if they succeed in passing laws of that sort, those laws can't possibly stand up to to judicial review, because they're unconstitutional!

The Constitutional separation of church and state isn't intended to keep little Johnny from praying at any time he wishes.  Or to prevent little Suzie from having a drawing of jesus or a cross on her notebook.  The issue is simple: if a religious activity is carried on with the support of the school staff in their official capacity, it's unconstitutional.  Individual students remain free to practice any religion however they wish, but when the school administration is involved, it's a violation of the "establishment" clause.  This also doesn't preclude learning about religion in class, provided it's not confined to learning about a single religion.  Courses in comparative religion or that include material about religion in a historical context are not at all a problem. 

Why does the christian right-wing insist on importing their religion into public schools?  Why not leave religion out of public education and keep it in the home or in a church (by any other name) where it belongs?  It seems evident to me this is a rallying cry to attract religious believers to a particular political cause.  These efforts by legislators are doomed to fail in the courts and even politicians are, for the most part, intelligent enough to know this.  The legislation is an appeal to the constituency of the religious right (I like to call it the religious reich) - it's more of a political movement than a religious movement.

If passed, these laws are destined to be challenged in court and, eventually, they'll be declared unconstitutional.  In the process, the state will have to spend millions of dollars to fight these court battles.  Taxpayer dollars.  From all taxpayers.  That includes many who aren't christians and have no reason to support these laws in the first place.  Those dollars are precious in these difficult economic times, since they could be spent more productively in trying to solve some of the really serious economic shortfalls in states where these laws are proposed and passed - such as crumbling infrastructure (roads, bridges, etc.), supporting public transportation, funding public education improvements, supporting first responders (police and fire), etc.  Stupid, unconstitutional laws are simply a waste of those resources and clearly fail to represent the wishes of minority members of the population:  non-christians and atheists, for instance.

A "success" in implementing laws that establish state-supported religious activities signals the encroachment of a theocratic form of government.  It's in the best interests of all members of society, including christian believers, to retain and enhance the separation of church and state, not to reduce it.  In fact, we need to roll back some of these intrusions that have crept in over the years - such as on our currency and in the Pledge of Allegiance - during times of political paranoia.

Freedom and liberty are beneficial to everyone and the intrusion of a particular religion into government ultimately would be detrimental to everyone but a chosen few - we already have examples in the present and past to look to for a lesson in what would follow the establishment of state religion in the US.  Those who are advocates of pushing religion into public schools are not really about freedom of religion - quite the opposite.  They have the arrogance to believe their view is the only right one and, if permitted, they'd force everyone to bend to their beliefs.

This says nothing about the efforts of the religious reich to push their beliefs into science classes in the public schools.  I'll say no more about that here, but it's clearly part of an organized effort to push the christian religion into public education.

They cry "persecution" when their plans are thwarted - but it's not even close to persecution or restriction of their freedom to practice their religion.  They claim their rights are being violated when they're blocked from violating everyone else's rights!!  The "pushback" the religious reich is experiencing is about preventing them from forcing their politics/religion on everyone else.  It's about retaining the diversity and a commitment to quality education that's been of so much value to this nation over its history. 

The taxpayers in states where these laws are being proposed need to let their representatives know they don't want their taxes wasted fighting for religious intrusions into public institutions.  Those politicians need to get the message:  quit wasting time and resources fighting battles destined to be lost, that only serve the interests of some of the people.  There's important work to be done!  Forcing the christian religion into public institutions violates the US Constitution!

1 comment:

Anthony Vogt said...

The saddest part of pushing the religious thought into schools is that they claim it is a legitimate alternative to a scientific theory they don't understand.

Sometimes I fear for the future of science classes if enough people are worn out from countering the reich, (religious reich is a good term).