Listen up, Alabama legislators! All y'all who think that you can take taxpayer money & promote your personal religious beliefs or - even worse - use your public elected position to do the same.... take a look at Louisiana before you write any more laws.
This past legislative session, Louisiana governor (and rising GOP star) Bobby Jindal championed a "reform" to public education. HB976 set up a voucher program where parents could use state funds to send their kids to religious schools. What? Schools like parochial schools run by the Catholic Church? Segregation Academies where parents isolate their kids from, well, anyone who is well tanned?
Funny though... there are other religions than Christianity - even in Louisiana and some of the schools applying for funds are - GASP!! - Muslim!
Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Watson, says she had no idea that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s overhaul of the state’s educational system might mean taxpayer support of Muslim schools.
“I actually support funding for teaching the fundamentals of America’s Founding Fathers’ religion, which is Christianity, in public schools or private schools,” the District 64 Representative said Monday.
“I liked the idea of giving parents the option of sending their children to a public school or a Christian school,” Hodges said.
Hodges mistakenly assumed that “religious” meant “Christian.”
This same sort of stunned bafflement has happened elsewhere when legislators decided to experiment with public school funding:
In Alabama, the attitude that religious belief trumps educational excellence is nothing new. In 1967, the Alabama Legislature was grappling with evolution, when Rep. Alonzo Shumate complained:
"These Darwin books teach that we came from jelly on the bottom of the ocean. I don't want to see any of them taught here."
Then in the 2012 session, Rep. Blaine Galliher introduced HB 133, a bill that would allow religious instruction as an elective course.
Discussing the bill with WAFF in Huntsville, Alabama (February 5, 2012), Galliher was "pretty clear on where he stands," telling the station, "They teach evolution in the textbooks, but they don't teach a creation theory," and "Creation has just as much right to be taught in the school system as evolution does and I think this is simply providing the vehicle to do that."
Now, can you imaging the howls of outrage if the local mosque wanted to offer a course in, well, anything? Or What about the Hindu temple or the Wiccans?
How interested would the State of Alabama be in funding a school where the principal said: "Sharia law has just as much right to be taught in the school system as Constitutional law...." How might Senator Cam Ward react to that statement?
Public school involvement in and support of religion gets a lot more complex & controversial when every religion expects the same access to the schools as local Christian ministers.