Sarah Posner writes about the number of states currently considering faux “religious freedom” bills that provide new opportunities for students to proselytize one another in situations where they are mostly a captive audience, like football games, assemblies and graduation ceremonies.
Mach said the bills are both “unnecessary and constitutionally problematic.” They are unnecessary, he said, “because the fundamental right of students to voluntarily express their faith is alive and well in the public schools.” These RVAAs, he went on, “go further, pushing schools to create opportunities for religious indoctrination from the school’s official podium.”
Opponents of these laws are raising alarm bells about their possible consequences. After the Tennessee bill passed, Charles Haynes, director of the Religious Freedom Center of the Newseum Institute in Washington, D.C., expressed concern for the “potential for abuse” of these laws, because “in communities where one religion dominates, school officials may view these laws as a doorway to promote the majority faith — doing through students what the school may not do itself.”The ACLU of Tennessee had urged Haslam to veto the bill, saying it is “unnecessary and confusing” and “actually invites schools to violate students’ right to be free from coerced participation in religious activity.”
In addition, critics charge that the Tennessee RVAA could be exploited to teach creationism in public schools, and LGBT rights activists in Tennessee contend that the statute could open the door for anti-gay bullying, under the guise of religious freedom.
In response to these criticisms, the Family Action Council of Tennessee, a conservative Christian advocacy group that supported the bill, criticized “advocates for the homosexual agenda,” saying in a statement that “Christians need to understand that their ability to proclaim the truth of Christ is being eroded under the guise of just wanting people to be nice.”
As always, this push for “religious freedom” is really a push for Christian privilege. If a Muslim student were to take advantage of the very same rules to give an Islamic prayer before a football game or a school assembly, they’d be lucky to make it out with their lives, forget their “religious freedom.” You have every right to pray; you do not have a right to force an audience to listen to it.