Beyond Belief: If Lawmakers Get Their Wish, Islamic Flags and Prayer Banners Will Be a Fixture of Ohio Schools

This eye-popping story is from today’s Columbus Dispatch. I can’t wait for the response from FOX News, Rush Limbaugh, and the fine folks at freerepublic.com.

An Islamic flag and a Muslim prayer banner could be hung prominently in public schools if two state representatives persuade fellow lawmakers to pass the Ohio Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Rep. Tim Derickson, a Republican from Oxford and one of the co-sponsors, called the bill introduced yesterday “a preventive attempt” to block further encroachment on expression of religious freedom. He cited examples such as prohibition of prayer in schools and public places, zoning issues for churches, and public expression of religious faith, such as wearing a Star of David or displaying reverent scenes from the Qur’an.

Asked if the law, had it been in effect, would have affected recent cases where Ohio schools were forced to remove images celebrating Islam, Rep. Bill Patmon, D-Cleveland, said, “You would have a better opportunity of keeping [those pictures] up.”

OK, I did make a few strategic changes to the newspaper’s actual words (and, for good measure, added a little something to the photo).

Here’s the original (real) story:

A portrait of Jesus and prayer could return to public schools if two state representatives persuade fellow lawmakers to pass the Ohio Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Rep. Tim Derickson, a Republican from Oxford and one of the co-sponsors, called the bill introduced yesterday “a preventive attempt” to block further encroachment on expression of religious freedom. He cited examples such as prohibition of prayer in schools and public places, zoning issues for churches, and public expression of religious faith, such as wearing crosses and displaying Nativity scenes.

Asked if the law, had it been in effect, would have affected recent cases where Ohio schools were forced to remove pictures of Jesus, Rep. Bill Patmon, D-Cleveland, said, “You would have a better opportunity of keeping Jesus up.”

I sincerely doubt that anyone in favor of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act would be remotely OK with the hypothetical outcome of my altered text. If that is so, it’s clear that the bill is not really about establishing religious freedom, but about forcing Christian privilege upon everyone. Again.

About Terry Firma

Terry Firma, though born and Journalism-school-educated in Europe, has lived in the U.S. for the past 20-odd years. Stateside, his feature articles have been published in the New York Times, Reason, Rolling Stone, Playboy, and Wired. Terry is the founder of Moral Compass, a now dormant site that poked fun at the delusional claim by people of faith that a belief in God equips them with superior moral standards. He joined Friendly Atheist in 2013.


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