DAVID ROSMAN: Gov. Nixon should veto religious 'liberty' bill

Wednesday, June 18, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

I have a neighbor who is quite conservative in her ways, advertising her discontent with the current administration with a slew of bumper stickers on the back of her oversized pickup truck.

David RosmanOne of those stickers reads, “The Constitution is Not a List of Suggestions,” which is as true for the minority as it is for the majority.

On May 30, the state House of Representatives forwarded HB 1303, the Missouri Student Religious Liberties Act, to Gov. Jay Nixon for his signature.

On the surface this bill seems to support the First Amendment, which permits the free expression of one’s personal religious preferences, including the preference not to believe. But the bill stresses the rights of the religious.

The bill’s purpose is to allow students to pray at school, to form student religious organizations as the school would secular organizations and to express their religious viewpoints on clothing, homework, art assignments, extracurricular activities and other formats.

There are two problems with this bill. First, it prohibits oversight by instructors in reviewing or grading the work based on the merit. The perception that Johnny got a better grade than Billy because Johnny stressed his belief in God is real. This would prevent some teachers from forming specific criteria for a topic to be graded.

The Rev. Dr. David Greenhaw, president of the Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, sees problems with HB 1303 (Columbia Daily Tribune, June 14, 2014).

He writes, “Public presentations by schoolchildren at school events are not neutral; they do and should have input and oversight from teachers.” He continues that any review by the teacher creates some “influence over the student’s religious beliefs.”

He finishes the paragraph by stating firmly that the family “should not have to risk religious beliefs becoming entangled with children’s public education.”

It is the perception, not the intent.

The second problem is the perception of public prayer sponsored by a school at school-sponsored functions. The intent of the law is to allow such personal expressions of religious beliefs “in a manner that does not discriminate against a student’s voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint, if any, on an otherwise permissible subject…”

In addition the speaker is to provide in writing and/or orally that her religious expression “does not reflect the endorsement, sponsorship, position or expression of the district.”

The perception is that, regardless of the disclaimer, there is a perceived, inherent endorsement of the religious content by the school. This would be in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment — "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."

We have seen attempts to include religion into secular education over the years, including, but not limited to, HB 1303. Public school, funded with tax dollars, must not even suggest a preference toward a religious preference, even if that scenario is only perceived by the few.

Parents who bring their children up in a religious home and prefer a religious education can send them to an appropriate parochial school.

Although the intent of the law is to protect those who wish to express their personal beliefs publicly, the perception will be the promotion of the majority religion — Christianity — not only within but by our public education system.

Laws are made, in part, to protect the minority from the majority. This is the reason we are seeing the recent surge in rulings against the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman.

It would be folly to believe that secular humanism will ever be the majority belief in the United States, though the number of nonbelievers has grown over the decades.

But as long as there are minority beliefs, the majority should not and must not adhere to the guise of “freedom” when they really mean “proselytization.”

HB 1303 is another attempt to force religion into public school systems. I urge Gov. Nixon to veto HB 1303 in order to preserve the “free exercise” clause of the Constitution and to protect minority religions and those of no faith.

David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics.

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Ellis Smith June 18, 2014 | 7:08 a.m.

"It would be folly to believe that secular humanism will ever be the majority belief in the United States..."

Thank God for that! :)

We have enough truly serious problems as it is.

Our* Constitution isn't a restaurant menu (as I keep pointing out): you can't simply select what you like and ignore the rest. That's fine and normal for a restaurant, but for governace it's guaranteed chaos.

*- And it is OUR Constitution, it's not Rosman's Constitution, Smith's Constitution, etc. If you don't like certain parts of it there's a procedure for amending it that's already been successfully employed more than two dozen times. Other historic attempts have not met success, and perhaps for good reasons.

(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller June 19, 2014 | 6:58 p.m.


What is an "oversized pickup truck?" It appears to me that you may be unconsciously judging people by the vehicles they choose to drive and, that "gas guzzlers" are the driving choice of "Vast Right Wing Republicans."

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith June 19, 2014 | 8:41 p.m.

Hello, Karl, I hope you are feeling well.

Having preached both fuel conservation and reduction of carbon dioxide from automotive activities I decided to practice what I preach and am now driving a Ford Focus C-2 hybrid. I now have reached the first 1,000 miles (which Ford considers the break-in period) and am getting 47-50 miles to the gallon using 10% ethanol gasoline.

As an engineer I especially like the regenerative braking feature (bringing the vehicle to a stop when driving creates electricity).

The Focus is definitely in the compact car category. Does this mean that since the car is a compact and has low fuel consumption I have become a Leftist Socialist person?

I do have a gun rack. :)

Among other features, when I complete a trip (of even a few blocks here in Ankeny) and turn off the propulsion system, the vehicle displays a message on its instrument panel THANKING ME FOR DRIVING A HYBRID. I've not been thanked so many times before.

I'm considering asking our Mining Engineering Department to mail me one of their bumper stickers:

We'll mine the other planets later.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams June 20, 2014 | 9:31 a.m.

JKarl: Glad yer still kickin' up dust with your pen!

As for "...her oversized pickup truck", I saw that, too, but figured Dave was simply trying to set a "sneer and condescending" tone for the article so I gave him a pass. Hey, he has that right...but so do we in return.

I'm in partial agreement with Dave that "Parents who...prefer a religious education can send them to an appropriate parochial school." In fact, I think parents of ANY stripe should be able to do this, religious or not. Of course, Dave fails to mention that such parents still have to pay their public school taxes and, hence, pay twice. I'd be in complete agreement with him if such folks could redirect their tax dollars into the private schools. Seems to me the REAL objective here should be getting our populace educated...not WHERE they are educated. But, the "where" is important to David because the "where" is how he and his ilk get control of kids' education.

Finally, there's this: "It would be folly to believe that secular humanism will ever be the majority belief in the United States." I've long thought that a society whose majority are those with a faith can survive quite nicely with a few secular humanists causing an itch like a few fleas on a really big dog (PS: That's me exercising my right to "sneer and condescending"). But, a secular humanist society would have a really hard time surviving without some religious folks helping to make the ethical decisions. After all, secular humanists have no referee.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams June 20, 2014 | 10:21 a.m.


Two things:

(1) I'd have already disabled it, probably with a rather large hammer.

(2) Why the hell doesn't a GPS company come up with something other than that sneering "RECALCULATING, you dumb moron"?

Ya know, sumpin' like "Oopsy, ya big stud, turn here instead."

Or, "Gosh, yer so handsome! Turn instead into this ice cream joint and have one on me!"

All in a sexy female voice, of course. Maybe with a video that strips down just a little bit every time I make a correct turn and finishes at my destination whereupon I crash into something at the big finale.

A Focus, eh? Well, no, I don't think you are a newly-derived "Leftist Socialist", but I am now officially suspicious.


(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith June 20, 2014 | 11:37 a.m.


The Focus hybrid DOES have a verbal command function (limited number of commands) and it answers some of them (verification of your command). I am impressed with this function, as it seems to correctly interpret your command regardless of any variation in individual speech or accent.

The voice is female; thus far it has refused either consensual or nonconsesual sex (see Missourian featured article today, and my comments).

For those who are willing to pay the list price, Ford now also offers this hybrid as their Fusion, which is closer to a mid-sized sedan and is styled far superior to either the Focus or Japanese Prius. I'm told Daimler-Benz has a voice command option on Mercedes-Benz autos. If you screw up, a male voice calls you a "dummkopf" (idiot, fool). :)

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith June 20, 2014 | 3:02 p.m.

@ Michael:

Regarding your comments to J. Karl, I am in almost total agreement, except for one item.

While it may be a financial hardship for concerned parents to foot the bill for private K-12 education (either religious or secular based) I am willing to do both (and not simply because I must pay taxes to support public schools), because:

1- In a democracy, or something vaguely resembling one, there are certain public obligations one must meet whether he/she likes the idea or not.

@- I and my daughter are products of two pretty good public school systems (but not the same system). Citizens paid taxes to give us an education (including both my daughter and I attending public universities, but, again, not the same university). Why should I deny the present generation of students the same opportunity?

That said, we were financially able to put both my granddaughters through private K-12 schools, including private colleges so far, and only two children were involved. I can easily understand why doing that with less wealth and/or more children would constitute a financial hardship.

I no longer, as I've said before, have faith in the public school system as a whole; granted, there are still good inividual public schools. Both the #1 and #2 rated high schools here in Iowa are located in the Des Moines metro area: #1 is public and located in a wealthy independent suburb (~75K-80K population) and the other is located in the same suburb but is private and religious-based. My granddaughters attended and graduated from the latter high school.

Experience in college indicates that students from both high schools do equally well. My older granddaughter graduated from a private college cum laude (spelling?) and my younger granddaughter is doing well (she already has an associate degree and will enroll at Webster University next fall). Just a few years back we recruited a student from the #2 high school - away from both Iowa State University and University of Iowa - who graduated with us suma cum laude. We atively recruit here and in several other states, and from both private and public high schools, mostly using unpaid alums to do that. I have also recruited for Colorado School of Mines.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams June 20, 2014 | 6:15 p.m.

Ellis: You recruited for the Colorado School of Mimes?

I didn't even know that such a school existed. How did you communicate with prospective students? Did they wear white gloves? Did you? Do they really live in glass rooms? Did you offer scholarships silently? Do mimes ever REALLY talk when off-duty? Or is it an all-the-time silent thingie? I bet the classrooms are interesting, with lectures and all. How did they ask to go to the bathroom...or perhaps I don't want to know?

Oh....wait. You said "mines".

My mistake. Never mind.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith June 20, 2014 | 10:02 p.m.

In letters home (yes, students once DID write letters home) we used to refer to our (then Missouri School of Mines) student body collectively as "Misery Minds."

Sorry about the typo. CSM, while having a significantly smaller student body than (present) MS&T, is a worthy technical institute. Chemical Engineering taught there has consistently been better than at MS&T, and is on a par with the program at Washington University (St. Louis), but we are completing construction on a new building just for Chemical Engineering (the present building will continue to house Chemistry and Bioloical ScienceS). THANK YOU, CURATORS!

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith June 20, 2014 | 10:06 p.m.

Should read "..biological sciences." Obviously, not my day.

(Report Comment)

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