Here’s a few quick updates on the Religious Expression in Public Schools bills that we’re opposed to.
First, the Senate version has been approved by all of its assigned committees and is now scheduled to be debated on the Senate floor tomorrow (Tuesday). If I understand the procedure, this is an opportunity for senators to ask the bill sponsor (Sen. Dennis Baxley) questions and engage in debate. But I don’t think there will be any voting. That should come during the bill’s “3rd reading” at a later date. However, I could be wrong; I’m certainly not an expert in these matters. Regardless, the time for citizens to make public comments on this bill during senate proceedings is over. You best option now is to get on the phone now and to email now. Tell your senator and any other senators who you think will listen why we are concerned about this bill. See the Religious Liberties Act 2017 category here for ideas.
The House version sailed through one committee and is now waiting to be put on the meeting schedule for the full Education Committee. Now would be a good time to call and email representatives on that committee and see if another embarrassing tent-revival-style meeting and unanimous vote can be avoided. (That atmosphere at the last meeting should make anyone who actually cares about religious liberties for all students cringe; but I digress.)
The Orlando Sentinel posted a story online today about the bills and mentioned Florida Citizens for Science’s concerns: Lawmakers’ push for ‘religious liberties’ in schools sparks debate.
Brandon Haught, a biology teacher in Volusia County and a member of Florida Citizens for Science, told lawmakers the bill would hurt science education.
Some teachers might feel free to discuss evolution from a “religious perspective,” and some students might feel they could claim “religious discrimination” if a teacher tried to explain “the science,” Haught said.
“This bill would cast a chilling effect on science teachers across the state who would prefer to shortchange evolution instruction rather than deal with potential conflicts with students, parents and then community,” he added.
And before I wrap up, it’s worth noting that the House sponsor of the bill has been the subject of some controversy: Jax State Rep Kim Daniels Accused of Campaign Fund Violations.