Texas State Representative: Everyone’s Cool with Reading Bible Verses in the Classroom, Right?

Texas State Representative Debbie Riddle (guess which party she represents?) has a brilliant idea to fix our schools:

Forget decades of court precedence and ignore the religious diversity in our schools: Surely things would be better if we just read Bible verses in the classroom!

Of course, people began challenging her. If she wants students to read inspirational passages, why not use any of the brilliant non-Sectarian books that have ever been written? Does anyone think she’d be ok reading “wisdom” from the Koran? Who does she think should pay for all the lawsuits after the school districts lose?

Then, instead of admitting that what she proposed was completely illegal, she blamed commenters for being hateful. All she wanted to do, after all, was stop teen pregnancy:

How the hell can someone get elected to public office without even reading past the First Amendment of the Constitution…?

Anyway, based on the outpouring of comments from people who think her idea is awful, it doesn’t look like she’s going to propose any sort of state law. So, for now, schoolchildren in Texas only have their state board of education to fear.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Nym

    “ect.”

    wow.

    • Rox1SMF

      And ”sensative.” :-/

      Is it too much to ask that our representatives have a working knowledge of the English language? I weep for my country.

      • http://profiles.google.com/julielada Julie Lada

         Don’t forget “a drift.”

        • paullawleyjones

           “A drift” is actually an easy mistake to make. “Sensative” is not as the keys are nowhere near each other. But, one would think an educated person would pick up these small errors from even a single proof-reading before posting.

          What’s more disconcerting is the repetitive nature of her post, i.e. “de-friend me now”, “respect”, “open communication/discussion” etc.

          • Randy

            Not that easy… it’s in same category as “a bout” instead of “about” (letter “a” + four-letter noun).  I admit a four-letter noun is slightly more complex than the three-letter noun in the commonly-joked-about “ajar”/”a jar”.  Still, this is not a mistake most adults would make, on an account associated with their political career.  W really did lower the bar on this though. 

            I was hoping some cartoonist might have already visualized a drift of kids for us, and posted it in the comments.  Perhaps Debbie could be driving the kid-plough, making the world safer from their inappropriately reproducing heathen bodies.

      • http://www.facebook.com/amandajeantetz Amanda Jean Tetz

        Oh, this killed me. This is AMURICA, I don’t need to know how to spell or present complete ideas to represent a large number of people! That’s some commie bullshit.

      • http://www.summerseale.com/ Summer Seale

        The irony is that she’s probably one of those “English First” Republicans.

    • murphium

      “Knowing how sensative folks are about prayer and ect.”

      I guess she means me. I don’t need prayer or electroconvulsive therapy.

      I would like “a drift” of snow right now, what with this heat wave.

  • KAJ

    Yeah, except the 15 year olds getting pregnant are always the fundies who haven’t been taught one thing about birth control. (At least that’s how it was in my small town.) 

    • jdm8

      I had a friend from Montana who went to a Christian high school.  He said that three out of the class of twenty one graduating was pregnant.  The class of 21 was counting the males, so this was three out of roughly ten or eleven girls pregnant in high school.

    • Heidi

       This has been my experience as well.

    • Yoav

       Maybe she should suggest an experiment, half the class will read wisdom from the buybull and the other half will read wisdom from an evidence based sex-ed book and at the end we can see which one was more effective in reducing teen pregnancy rates.

  • Joseph

    I think they should read from the Poetic Edda. I mean, Odin’s wisdom from the Hávamál won’t harm any non-Heathens, right?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brady-Bever/40305560 Brady Bever

      The whole Nordic view of the end of the world is pretty damn depressing though, unlike Christianity, it’s depressing for everyone, good and bad.

      • B_R_Deadite99

        Yeah, but at least Norse Mythology is bad-ass. There’s nothing bad-ass about weeping martyrs. And when you think about it, Christianity is actually far more depressing; in the end, the brown-nosers go to heaven while everyone else is cast into hell for not kissing Cosmic Hitler’s ass. In N.M., after Ragna Rok, humanity gets a chance to begin anew.

  • thesoundofsomethingslippery

     I was the only atheist that I knew of in a very conservative christian Texas middle school with no sex ed or PDA allowed, where everybody looked down their noses and called me a whore, sinner, etc etc…. and I was probably the only girl there who WASN’T pregnant.

    • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

      Ditto. I was rumoured to be knocked up and sleeping with this person and that all the time in high school. Oddly, I was a virgin until just before college and still have no children. It’s easier to project your flaws onto those you fear and loathe than it is to admit your flaws and change.

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    Sure, Proverbs is full of “wisdom” for Texas classrooms:

    He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.
       – Proverbs 13:24

    Blows and wounds cleanse away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being.
       – Proverbs 20:30

    Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.
       – Proverbs 23:13-14

    Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.
       – Proverbs 22:15

    Give beer to those who are perishing and wine to those who are in anguish; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.
       – Proverbs 31:6-7

    • observer

      Yep, just announce those every day at school. And pretty soon, no more teen pregnancies, “plus so many more problems”!

    • http://annainca.blogspot.com/ Anna

      Rather fitting, since corporal punishment is legal in Texas public schools. Maybe they should read those verses before they send students to the principal’s office for a beating.

      Texas is one of 20 states, most of them in the Bible Belt, that still allow corporal punishment in schools. During the 2006-07 school year, the most recent period with statewide statistics available, more than 49,000 Texas students were paddled, putting Texas at the top of the list, according to the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights.

      http://www.star-telegram.com/2011/03/05/2899317/thousands-of-students-still-take.html

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/47IDX2QAR6VU6ZAILFU6I23ACQ Joseph

    Yes, another reason to be proud to live in Texas (uggh)….

    A few observations/questions after reading Rep. Riddle’s Facebook page:

    1) First off, the proposal itself… are you fucking kidding me?  How naive ARE you, Rep. Riddle?

    2) In response to Rep. Riddle’s post comment “I am shocked at some of the postings – some of the responses have been disrespectful, hateful and rude”: Really? Because I found most of the comments to be respectful, well reasoned, and accurate, with a moderate (but deserving) degree of outrage.  Just because somebody calls you out for being an ignorant twit does not make them “disrespectful, hateful and rude” (OK, my calling you a twit just now would qualify as such, I grant you that). 

    3) And another chestnut from Rep. Riddle: “The separation [of church and state] you are
    talking about is about not having a state relegion [sic] such as everyone must
    be Methodist or Baptist…. It was assumed that Christianity
    would be the primary relegion [sic] – though others were welcome. Our
    foundation is based on Jewish and Christian vlaues.” By this logic, the second amendment would only apply to carrying muskets, flintlock pistols, and sabres — no AK-47s or modern military-grade weaponry (though frankly, that doesn’t sound so bad). 
    4) Is Shane Noble a Poe?  If not, S-C-A-R-Y….

    Let’s hope that she doesn’t get re-elected (though knowing the political and religious climate in this state, I’m sure she will overwhelmingly).

    • Stev84

      Anthony “Fat Tony” Scalia just said that handheld rocket launchers may be covered under the second amendment. That’s originalism for you

  • Phil Bellerive

    I think these politicians stay out in the hot Texas sun for too long.  That would explain a lot.

    • Coyotenose

       Nah. The sun would have to introduce energy, and these people are closed (-minded) systems. Nothing can get through.

      • Drakk

        You may be thinking of isolated systems, which can’t exchange anything with their surroundings.

        Unfortunately people like this are neither closed nor isolated. Stuff comes out all the time.

        • Coyotenose

           Agh! I am undone!

          Reason, why U fail me? Time to become a Creationist, I reckon.

  • Kari Lynn

    Hmmm, Rep. Riddle? Could she be related to Tom Riddle?! It would make sense!

    http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Tom_Riddle 

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Here’s what I wrote on her Facebook responding to her “Ok, enough already.” comment:

    Representative
    Riddle, I am respectfully disagreeing with you about your presumption
    that children lacking a “foundation of faith” is somehow responsible for
    teen pregnancy. If you look at a list of the states with the most
    devout Christians and a list of the states with the most teen pregnancy,
    you’ll see it’s the same list.

    What children need is a
    foundation of ACCURATE KNOWLEDGE about sex, sexuality, and
    contraception, presented to them honestly and without bias. Hoping that
    relying on prayer, piety, and devotion will guide children and help them
    to avoid unwanted pregnancy clearly does not work.

    You can
    continue clinging to your ideology, mechanically repeating, “This is the
    way it should be, this is the way it should be,” and continue to fail
    these children, or you can acknowledge the way things really are and
    respond to children’s needs in pragmatic ways that actually help them
    get through their difficult adolescence safely and healthily.

    • Heidi

       Well said, Richard.

    • Drakk

       First thing I thought as soon as I started reading.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      I can only assume some of the comments asked her why very non-religious countries e.g. Sweden and Denmark have such low rates of teenage pregnancy.

    • cipher

       Facts merely confuse them, Richard.

  • http://www.facebook.com/amandajeantetz Amanda Jean Tetz

    most teen moms I know are christians… just sayin.
    also, I find if funny that she assumes that in order to post on her FB page, one needs to be friends with her. ah, the trials and tribulations of a public figure posting unpopular opinions on the internet. that poor, poor, out of touch woman.

    • amycas

       Well, if she knew how to use the site, she would know that you can set it to only allow friends to post on it; apparently she knows how to use facebook about as well as she knows how the first amendment is applied.

  • Ken

    And another sterling example of Southern intellectualism.  Is it really possible to slander a part of the country that insists on parading its prejudices and complete disregard for the Constitution under the banner of God’s guidance?

  • Jasmyn

    I was going to copy and paste my comment, but the entire post seems to have vanished in the last half hour.

    • Pollo Diablo

      the profile’s gone too

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    Maybe if those who work so hard to spread their Bible-based foundation of faith weren’t trying SO much to shame women about contraceptive use and abortion we’d have less teen pregnancy.

    • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

      Nah, it’s totally the lack of Bible verses. I mean, no girls ever got pregnant back when prayer was still firmly in the classroom!

      • Grumble F Kitty

        Well, they did, but they were already done with school and married, so it’s ok.

    • Kodie

      You know, isn’t it the parents too? They don’t want sex ed taught in school, they want that responsibility for themselves, heaven forbid anyone learn anything useful in school. Likewise, it’s their responsibility to give them a foundation in faith if that’s what they want, not the school’s. They don’t want school teaching kids something that might mix up the messages they get at home, so I would say if teens are pregnant at school, while a problem we could confront as a society if we’re smart about it, they would rather be dumb and own their children, so let them keep their “dumb” at home too. Teen pregnancies become those teens’ parents problems, that’s how they wanted it.

      • Alex

        They may think it’s their responsibility to teach their kids about sex, but in the end they fail to live up to them and when kids do get in trouble — you guessed it — blame the public education system for being ineffective. Claim credit for success, blame others for failures, it seems to work so well in those circles.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1351473675 Matthew Baker

    So Proverbs works like Condoms who knew

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    This was apparently given to a child at vacation bible camp
     (via 
    https://www.facebook.com/AtheismResource)

    • Glasofruix

      There’s something along those lines in the beginning of timothy too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/don.gwinn Don Gwinn

    People have covered most of the insanity pretty well, but what struck me was the sheer failure of self-awareness required to tell everybody but her brands of Christians/Jews that “the wisdom won’t hurt you,” then have a whinge about other people being “rude.” 

    “And where are all these new people coming from?  All I did was toss out an opinion on the largest and most interconnected communication network in human history and then ask everyone who saw it to give me their opinion on it.  Why are they all bugging me about it?”

    I’m also going to go ahead and flatly state that either she made up her friend the teacher’s input, or her friend made it up.  I find it very hard to believe that she’s actually observed a correlation between students who “have no foundation in faith” and teen pregnancy.  That’s certainly not what I’ve seen in my school.  And by the way, no need to forget the teen *fathers* in this equation.  I haven’t met one who didn’t consider himself very religious, although to be fair, almost all the students do.  Religious upbringings have not, in my experience, done much to prevent teen pregnancy from *either* side of the equation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/don.gwinn Don Gwinn

    Hey, does this mean we could have the kids read from the Koran, instead?

    ”  The Quran is a Book of Wisdom for wise people.  In Sura
    Yunus it says: “These are the verses of the Book of Wisdom” (10:1).  There is a
    full chapter in the Quran entitled Luqman (The wise).  Luqman was a physician,
    philosopher and saint.  The ascription and dedication of a full chapter to his
    name shows immense reverence for the man of wisdom in the sight of God.  This
    Sura starts with these words: “These are verses of the Wise Book, a guide and a
    mercy to the doers of Good.”(20:2-3).”

    It says “wisdom” right there in it.  If a holy book says it’s a book of wisdom, that’s like a First Amendment cloaking device, right?  It’s like the First Amendment heard a noise, right, and it knows somebody’s in the Forbidden Constitutional Amendment Library, but Proverbs and the Koran are under a Book of Wisdom Invisibility Cloak, so the First Amendment can’t see them standing right there making faces at it.  It’s pretty awesome.
    http://www.irfi.org/articles/articles_201_250/quran_speaks_about_the_quran.htm

  • cipher

    How the hell can someone get elected to public office without even reading past the First Amendment of the Constitution…?

    The Constitution doesn’t apply. It isn’t the US – it’s Texas.

    • johnee

      Truer words have never been spoken.  I live in Texas and the idea of secession is extremely popular here.  These fundie rednecks are insane.  It’s a constant battle from rational thinking people to stop the complete take over from these loons. Sometimes though, it’s like a  dam with a lot of leaks trying to keep out a tsunami of filth and ignorance.

      • cipher

        A friend who grew up in Texas said to me in an email a few years ago:

        The state’s always had its fill of idiots, but I’ve never seen a time
        when so many have overrun public discourse and set policy. There’s been a long history of electing clods like G.W.Bush to high office (and usually, they stay contained in Texas, but look what happened!) but I’ve never seen so many in office across all different levels of governmental, educational (shudder) and even cultural organizations.
         
        Somebody must have spiked the water supply with a special kind of dumbass fluoride.

        I’ve been suggesting for some time that we airlift out the people with functioning brain stems (shouldn’t be more than a planeload or two), then give it back to Mexico – along with as much of the South and Midwest as they can carry.

        • johnee

          LOL! Fortunately, I live in Austin and we just happen to have higher  concentrations of folks that have at least SOME cognitive abilities, especially when compared to the rest of the state. 

          • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

            Does Austin have the right to secede from Texas?

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/47IDX2QAR6VU6ZAILFU6I23ACQ Joseph

          I’d like a seat on that plane when we give Texas back to Mexico.  I
          teach at a university in this state (not in Austin), so I’m not here by
          choice. I’ve been here twenty years now, and still refuse to refer to myself as a “Texan.”  It wouldn’t be so bad if the ignorance here were self-contained, but as cipher’s friend pointed out, this state is a pretty big exporter of stupid.

          • cipher

             Twenty years? We’ll set you up in First Class!

            • http://profile.yahoo.com/47IDX2QAR6VU6ZAILFU6I23ACQ Joseph

              Much appreciated, cipher.  I’m also going to need a constant supply of those complimentary alcoholic beverages (I also live in an area where liquor stores are not allowed). 

              • cipher

                You poor fellow. What do you teach? (Not evolutionary biology, I presume?)

                • http://profile.yahoo.com/47IDX2QAR6VU6ZAILFU6I23ACQ Joseph

                  Ha!  No, I teach music (a field populated by plenty of religious folks, by the way — especially among the students). 

                • cipher

                   Any chance of getting a job at another school?

                • Kitchengardener

                  Joseph, come to western Wisconsin!  Yes, it’s a heavily Catholic-Lutheran area, but in the 13 years we’ve been here, I have had ONE person invite me to their church – and she was drunk at the time!  Also, the Catholics and the Baptists drink together.  SO much better than where we used to live (northeastern Oklahoma: land of Rhema Bible College.  And of Oral Roberts University…he of the 300-ft tall Jesus.  /facepalm).

        • Yoav

           That’s assuming that the Mexicans are dumb enough to take it.

          • cipher

            Oddly enough, I’ve been told they still resent losing it and feel it was taken from them illegally, but realize the pointlessness of complaining about it now.

            I have a feeling they’d gladly take the land back, but we’d have to give them cash to take the Texans.

    • http://www.facebook.com/gwydionfrost Daniel Parker

      The “motto” of the tourism division of Texas gives away the true mentality.

      • cipher

        Ha!

  • Sharon Hypatia

    It’s the absolute cluelessness!
    Well, I thought,  since people are sensitive  about prayer, I won’t suggest introducing prayers in the school. Instead, introduce the BOOK on which the religious beliefs and the command to pray are based. Yep, that wouldn’t be the state promoting one religion, would it?
    Oh, I know the Constitution says “religion” – period.  But it really, really doesn’t mean the  judeo-xtian religion can’t be promoted by the government – just all the other ones.
    And, anyway, xtianity is like the vanilla pudding of religions. Just so bland, ubiquitous and good-for-you that forcing it down everyone’s throat is just peachy-keen because “Hey, I like to eat vanilla pudding. And you should, too!”.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Wait, so now it’s and Jewish values? What happened to a nation founded on Christian values? And if it’s Jewish values as well, then I want to see the original 10 Commandments,  not just the bastardized Christian ones.

  • berberine

    I don’t have a Facebook account, but if anyone wants to pass this on, feel free.  I work in a junior high school in a very religious community.  There are very few secular kids in town.  I mentor one who is constantly harassed because he is an atheist.  One of the most religious girls in school had an abortion last year.  I can’t count the number of times we’ve stopped public displays of affection in school.  There are a lot of these kids who go on to have their own children between 17 and 20.  A lot of them get married at 18 because “it’s the right thing to do” when they get pregnant.

    Kids tend to do stupid things.  It’s human nature.  To blame the removal of prayer and religion in school as the reason is idiotic.  These same things occurred in the 40s, 50s, and 60s.  When it happened then, the girl went to visit “relatives” for a while.  Teen pregnancies are actually at an all time low (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57411981-10391704/u.s-teen-pregnancy-rates-at-an-all-time-low-across-all-ethnicities/), it’s just easier to blame things you don’t like on the old “You don’t think like I do so that’s probably what’s wrong with society.”

    By the way, in my school district, the junior high has been begging for years to return health class and sex ed classes, but they won’t do it.  It’s not taught until 11th grade, far too late, imho.

  • http://onlyforlunaticsandpoets.wordpress.com/ Nick

    does anyone know the history of the faith of the founding fathers? I’ve heard that most of them were deist which is far different than Christian. I’m just curious when I hear so much thrown around about what our country was founded on. Is that actually even true?

    Secondly I think she has a point about how disrespectful people are.

    • cipher

      They weren’t all Deists, but few, if any, were conservative Christians in the sense these people would like them to have been.

      There was a study some years ago in which the researchers found that evangelicals are far more likely to cut the Founding Fathers slack  in terms of their level of religiosity than they are their fellow contemporary Christians. In other words, if a Founding Father invoked God or even employed the term “Divine Providence” once in a while, he was a Christian – but of course, those hell-bound liberals who have the audacity to call themselves “Christians” aren’t TRUE CHRISTIANS™ at all.

      • johnee

        All very true. However ‘ol Thomas P, Thomas J, and Ben Franklin were not Christians.  This fact is in contrast to the absolute lie that the religious right/historical revisionist crowd tells about these men.

         

        • johnee

          Thomas Jefferson considered himself a Christian in a philosophical sense. He considered all the supernatural and religious stuff bullshit.

    • johnee

       No Nick, it’s not true ( see some of my comments below) This is complete ignorance and misinformation that is being spread by the “we are a christian nation” crowd. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the founders, no matter what their thoughts were on matters of faith, wanted to keep religion and government separate .

      That being said, several of the most prominent and influential founders were definitely not Christians. That is a lie perpetuated religious right/historical revisionists.  Do youself a favor and obtain a copy by the ‘Age of Reason’ by Thomas Paine. Also, read several of the quotes by Thomas Jefferson ( in context) on the subject of religion. You will be stunned that these men could ever have been packaged as Christians by religious conservatives.

      • johnee

        Excuse me. Retain a copy OF ‘The Age of Reason’.  

  • Gunstargreen

    So basically her response to criticism was “un-friend me I don’t want to hear opposing viewpoints!”

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Arthur-Bryne/100002441143047 Arthur Bryne

      Well, she seemed to eventually understand that this was a bad idea, after a couple people explained it to her from different angles — particularly from a secularist Christian teacher. Riddle has since deleted the thread (probably because it’s both embarrassing and the flamewar continuing to escalate).

      I’d consider it a failure of civics education in Texas, however; what she proposed was almost the exact policy that was banned as unconstitutional in Abington v. Schempp.

  • Stev84

    I have just the Bible verse to solve the teen mom problem:

    “Blessed is he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks”
    – Psalms 137:9

  • Aimee

    OK, I know I am being a bit picky but doesn’t she notice when Facebook tells her she has spelled something wrong?  UGH!  

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      It’s actually your browser, not Facebook.  Which means she’s probably using Internet Explorer.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/47IDX2QAR6VU6ZAILFU6I23ACQ Joseph

         Well, there’s another strike against Rep. Riddle.  ;-)

  • Stev84

    Is it just me or has she deleted that entire comment thread on Facebook?


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