Hemant Mehta over at Friendly Atheist has his eye on Mississippi because we’re such a poster child for religious privilege. Few states push evangelical faith on their residents through official government institutions quite like we do (Oklahoma sometimes may be a close second), as evidenced by a new law that went into effect just a few days ago. In effect this law says that schools must provide a public forum within which students can freely express their religious views at any and all school events. This goes quite a bit beyond simply ensuring a protection of the right to lead public prayers at school events. It gives free rein for students of any religious persuasion to express their views for the whole school to hear.
The catch to this, which Hemant pointed out in his earlier post about this, is that any student can take advantage of this new law, regardless of their religious affiliation. That means that Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and even atheists must be allowed the same privilege or else the new law has been broken.
Now, as a resident of the Magnolia State, I know good and well that the politicians who were pandering to their base with this poorly conceived violation of the Establishment Clause didn’t take the time to think through this very well, and that they assume it will only be used by Christians to advance the cultural hegemony of their own brand of religious belief. But that’s not the way this works. You see, this law ensures that any atheist or humanist or Muslim students who want the same opportunity to address their student body must be afforded the same privilege or else the new law is violated.
So let this be a challenge to any students who come across this piece of news: Take advantage of this opportunity to demonstrate what this law is offering, and demand that all students be afforded the same privilege, regardless of religious affiliation. It’s the only patriotic thing to do :-)