The Kentucky legislature is considering Religious Liberties bills that are remarkably similar to ones filed here in Florida. Here’s a link to the Kentucky bill and, for comparison, here is a link to the Florida bill.
Language from the Kentucky bill:
… a student shall be permitted to voluntarily:
Express religious or political viewpoints in classroom, homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination or penalty based on the religious or political content of the submissions
Language from the Florida bill:
A student may express his or her religious beliefs in coursework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination. A student’s homework and classroom assignments shall be evaluated, regardless of their religious content, based on expected academic standards relating to the course curriculum and requirements. A student may not be penalized or rewarded based on the religious content of his or her work if the coursework, artwork, or other written or oral assignments require a student’s viewpoint to be expressed.
Why does this matter? Because in the news article Ky. Senator: Christians Are Ones ‘Being Persecuted’ In Schools, a bill sponsor had this to say:
Asked if the bill might provide legal grounds for students to challenge answers on tests – for example, a creationist student who disagrees with a science teacher about the age of the earth – Robinson said the student should be free to repeat what was learned in class while appending his or her opinion without fear of reprisal.
“What I would do if I was answering, I’d say, ‘Well, according to my beliefs it’s 6,000 [years old], but according to what you say it’s more,'” the lawmaker told WUKY. “You still answered a question and it would be retaliation if they were to say you’ve got to believe what I believe and you can’t believe what you believe.”
But Robinson adds, “A teacher, if they had respect, they would go ahead and respect and admire a student who thought for themselves.”
Hey! I want to play that game, too. Teacher: “Little Suzie, what is 2+2?” Suzie: “Well, according to my beliefs it’s 3, but according to what you say it’s more.”
Does that answer about basic math sound silly? It should, just like the answer about the age of the earth. It’s not a case of students thinking for themselves. It’s a case of students believing something demonstrably false.
Of course, that is a Kentucky lawmaker commenting on a Kentucky bill. But there are undeniable parallels to the Florida bills. The Kentucky senate approved their version of the bill and there is a good chance the house bill will cross the finish line, too.
What will happen in the Florida legislature? We’ll see once the session kicks off March 7. Both Florida bills have been assigned to review committees and both have picked up cosponsors, which are signs that these bills might have some life to them.
A Call to Action
Want to help Florida Citizens for Science stand up for sound science education in our home state? You can keep informed via this blog, Facebook and Twitter. But we sincerely need people willing to take on a more active role! We need people to monitor and take swift action when needed in Tallahassee by personally visiting lawmakers or making phone calls or networking with other like-minded organizations. The Religious Liberties bills might not be the only ones to potentially impact science education this legislative session. We’re also preparing for the science textbook adoption process that will kick off later this year. We’ll need vigilant citizens all across the state to help then! And when will the Florida Department of Education update the state science standards? We need eyes and ears looking out for that.
Contact any of our board members to learn more.
(Image from UnusualCards.)