Tennessee “Religious Antidiscrimination” Law Could Allow Students to Preach Satan Worship and Submit Psalms for Writing Assignments

Thursday, April 03, 2014
(graphic: Satanic Temple)

Satan worship and anti-gay preaching are just some of things that could become part of school life in Tennessee, where lawmakers have adopted a religious freedom bill.


The Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act, which Republican Governor Bill Haslam is expected to sign, would allow students to use religion in any manner they want while in public schools.


Supported by Christian conservatives seeking protection for their beliefs, the legislation would permit the public ridicule of gay students for being sinners, according to critics and civil libertarians. Such actions could take place in class, during school assemblies, or at other locations and times while school is in session, since the law forces schools to allow students the use of public school facilities—including the school’s public address system.


But the pending law could also be used by those such as Satanists, to espouse their beliefs in the classroom, opponents say.


It also could pose a nightmare for teachers trying to grade students’ performance. The bill states that “If a teacher’s assignment involves writing a poem, the work of a student who submits a poem in the form of a prayer (for example, a psalm) should be judged on the basis of academic standards, including literary quality, and not be penalized or rewarded on account of its religious content.”


In other words, as David Badash at The New Civil Rights Movement wrote, a student could answer “God” for questions about chemistry and the origins of water—and the instructor could not penalize such responses.


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) warns that the legislation “crosses the line from protecting religious freedom into creating systematic imposition of some students’ personal religious viewpoints on other students.”


“Should this pass, students with a range of religious beliefs, as well as non-believers, would likely routinely be required to listen to religious messages or participate in religious exercises that conflict with their own beliefs,” the ACLU said in a statement. “Conversely, if a student of a minority religious faith (e.g., a Buddhist, a Wiccan, etc.) or a non-believer were to obtain a ‘position of honor,’ as defined under this bill, that student would be permitted to subject all classmates to prayer and proselytizing specific to his or her faith tradition in connection with school events. In both cases, parents would have no recourse to ensure that their children were not coerced into such religious exercise.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Tennessee Passes Bill Allowing LGBT Students To Be Bullied In The Name Of ‘Religious Freedom’ (by David Badash, New Civil Rights Movement)

SB 1793 (Open States)

Will Tennessee's New Religious Viewpoints Legislation Protect Bullying in School? (by Suzi Parker, Takepart)

The Monkey Trial: A Flashback (by Deborah A. Kent, AllGov)


Teacher Kurt Steinbach 2 years ago
This bill will never survive Court challenge. It does not pass Constitutional Muster. This bill would absolutely allow religious bullying in schools, and would allow religious belief to be used as a shield. I think religious believers have done enough damage to our children. For example, the 5th grade Catholic teacher at my Public Elementary School who told me in 1982, a month after my mother committed suicide that my mother was damned to hell. She got away with it because, well she was Catholic, and hey, I was just a Jew boy from New Jersey, and it's Tennessee, right, so it's okay. All the lawmakers of Tennessee have done, and all the stupid Governor Willy Haslam will ensure is a series of expensive lawsuits against the state that the people will have to pay to defend whether they agree or not, and whether we want to or not out of our already paltry state treasury. Governor Haslam, haven't you and the legislature already hurt the people of Tennessee and our children and students enough by not expanding Medicaid?

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