Thoughts of a former evangelical Christian

Archive for February, 2013|Monthly archive page

Texas House: Religious Equal Access Act

In Uncategorized on February 24, 2013 at 6:17 am

Rep. Matt Krause, Representative for the 93rd House District of Texas in the Fort Worth area, recently introduced a constitutional amendment (H.B. 1525) to guarantee groups like the Good News Club access to public elementary schools.  The amendment would add the following provision to the Texas Education Code:

Sec. 11.1651.  PROHIBITION OF DISPARATE TREATMENT IN ALLOWING ACCESS TO SCHOOL CAMPUSES DURING NON-INSTRUCTIONAL TIME BASED ON RELIGIOUS NATURE OF ORGANIZATION.

If the board of trustees of an independent school district allows noncurricular community organizations not organized or operated primarily by students access to district school campuses during non-instructional time,  the district must provide religious organizations the same access to school campuses during non-instructional time as is given to other noncurricular organizations without discrimination based on any religious nature of an organization or on an organization’s activities on campus, including expression of religious viewpoints.

The provision, if enacted, would go farther than existing Supreme Court precedent.  In Good News Club v. Milford Central School, 533 U.S. 98 (2001), the Supreme Court held that Milford Central School could not exclude the Good News Club on the basis of its religious viewpoints, when it allowed other community groups to teach students “moral and character development.”

H.B. 1525 is purportedly intended to codify the Good News Club decision.  But H.B. 1525 would go further by barring a school from denying access to a religious group for any reason at all.  A school would be prohibited from scrutinizing a religious group’s activities — including emotional and psychological mistreatment of children — as well as its viewpoints.

Rep. Krause with family and pastor at Glenview Baptist Church

Prior to becoming elected, Rep. Krause graduated from Liberty University School of Law before working as an attorney for Liberty Counsel.  In Dec. 2007, he opened Liberty Counsel’s Texas office.

P.S.: Endorsed by the Tea Party, Rep. Krause also recently filed a “Come and Take It” firearm protection bill.

Protecting Children

In Child Evangelism Fellowship, Good News Club on February 22, 2013 at 4:21 am

The Supreme Court’s 2001 Good News Club v. Milford Central School opinion is a widely misunderstood decision. In Milford, the Supreme Court held that Milford Central School could not exclude the Good News Club, an evangelical Bible lesson program aimed at children ages 5-12, merely because of its religious nature.

The Milford decision turned on a pivotal question of whether the Good News Club could be excluded solely because of its religious content. The Supreme Court held that it could not. To exclude the Good News Club merely because of its religious content, while admitting other superficially similar groups (e.g., groups promoting “character” development), constituted viewpoint discrimination.

But the Good News Club could have been — and still can be — excluded on viewpoint-neutral grounds crafted to protect children from harm.

Jefferson Lighthouse School (Racine, WI)

In Muller v. Jefferson Lighthouse School, 98 F.3d 1530 (7th Cir. 1996), Andrew Muller – a 4th grader – asked his teachers for permission to hand out invitations to an AWANA program at his church. The School refused because it violated the Code of Student Responsibilities and Rights. Among other things, the Code included provisions allowing a principal to bar from distribution literature that was “obscene” or “insulting to any group or individuals.” Id. at 1534 n.4.

Muller’s parents sued and challenged the “insulting” aspect – and many others – of the Code. While agreeing that the School improperly applied the Code to exclude the flyer for no other reason than that it was religious, the 7th Circuit rejected Muller’s facial challenge:

Declaring the elementary school classroom, hallway or playground forums for unfettered student communication would require either a severe incursion into the critical educational mission of the elementary school or a substantial contraction of the First Amendment protections afforded speech in a public forum. In a public forum, the Christian can tell the Jew he is going to hell, or the Jew can tell the Christian he is not one of God’s chosen, no matter how that may hurt. But it makes no sense to say that the overly zealous Christian or Jewish child in an elementary school can say the same thing to his classmate, no matter the impact. Racist and other hateful views can be expressed in a public forum. But an elementary school under its custodial responsibilities may restrict such speech that could crush a child’s sense of self-worth.

Id. at 1540. The 7th Circuit also remarked that:

• A “public elementary school can shield its five through thirteen-year-olds from topics and viewpoints that could harm their emotional, moral, social, and intellectual development.” Id. at 1538.

• Schools can intercept “racially and religiously bigoted materials … before they damage children and the environment.” Id. at 1541.

• “[T]here is no practical way to protect students from materials that can … severely traumatize a child without some form of prior restraint.” Id.

• “Schools … are free to screen student handouts for material that is insulting or lewd or otherwise inconsistent with legitimate pedagogical concerns.” Id. at 1542.

• “[A] school need not tolerate student expression of viewpoints which are fundamentally ‘inconsistent with its basic educational mission.’” Id. (citation omitted).

As documented in www.goodnewsclubs.info website, the Good News Club violates all of these standards. It shames, terrorizes, and traumatizes children with messages such as “you deserve death [and Hell].” It glorifies genocide and stigmatizes nonbelievers as persons who “refuse to believe God” and who deserve to be punished for their defiant disbelief. It attacks evolution and suggests that those who teach it are serving Satan.

Why didn’t any of these rationales come up in Milford? And why hasn’t this rationale come up in any of the scores of GNC cases that Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) has litigated since Milford? For two reasons. First, schools have repeatedly attempted to exclude the Good News Club merely because it is religious. Second, no school district has ever taken a close look at the Good News Club curriculum. It’s time for that to change. It’s time to hold CEF accountable for violating basic standards of decency.

A Model Facilities Use Policy

In Child Evangelism Fellowship, Good News Club on February 22, 2013 at 3:45 am

Intrinsic Dignity is pleased to announce that is has released a Model Facility Use Policy to protect children from harmful outside organizations.  Print out a copy and send it to the your school board members and administrators!

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