Editorial: Educate the educators on religion in schools

May. 10, 2013 @ 01:53 AM

Legislators are free to spend all their time passing resolutions in favor of sunshine and puppy dogs if they like, but it’s not a useful way to spend their time.

A current bill under consideration in the Senate is not quite that frivolous, but it’s not far off because it would accomplish nothing.

The bill says students can pray, express religious viewpoints, possess or distribute religious literature and organize religious groups as long as they don't disrupt schools.

In other words, it says students have the same First Amendment rights they already have.

There is not a thing objectionable about the bill. It echoes long-established court precedents on the matter. And that's exactly why it's a waste of time.

Sen. Warren Daniel, R-Burke and the bill's lead sponsor, has said the bill is needed because of confusion among educators about how to handle religious expression.

No, you don’t need to pass laws to eliminate confusion, you need education. There are free resources – repeat, FREE resources – available to accomplish educating the educators. Notably, “A Teacher’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools,” published by the First Amendment Center and available by download (again, FREE) from its website, www.firstamendmentcenter.org.

The Rev. Mark Creech of the Christian Action League told legislators that the bill should be passed because, “Some educators — many times out of ignorance, sometimes out of base motives — and certain outside groups intimidate students into silence or inaction in matters of faith or practice.”

No law will eliminate “base motives,” but if laws eliminated ignorance then we could simply pass a law requiring all adults to be capable of college-level reading comprehension, computer programming and applied physics. Who would need universities anymore? We’d have laws.

We already have a law on this topic – the ultimate law of the United States: the Constitution. Passing a state law saying what the courts have ruled the First Amendment already says will do no harm, but don’t our legislators have anything better to do?