Thursday, June 12, 2008

Education Opinions

From the Tulsa World:

Henry axes ill-conceived bill

Despite its self-important title, "Religious Viewpoint Antidiscrimination Act," House Bill 2633 was bad legislation.

The bill mandated that students in public schools "may express their beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their submissions." Further, it forbade school districts to "discriminate" against a student "based on a religious viewpoint expressed by the student on an otherwise permissible subject."

The measure's language was so unwieldy and murky that it is difficult to determine what it would require. It may well have required that teachers accept simplistic religious explanations — "God's will" or "God's miracle" — on homework or class work dealing with natural phenomena or historical events. HB 2633's passage would almost guarantee lawsuits to establish exactly what it did require.

Worse, HB 2633 was a solution in search of a problem. It was unnecessary. There already were avenues, such as voluntary, nondisruptive prayer, for students to express their religious beliefs in school.

The measure, however, passed the state Senate unanimously and the House by a 70-28 margin. That's what happens in our era of gotcha governance: Lawmakers are stampeded into passing bad laws when saying "no" might be construed as voting against God.

Last week, after the Legislature adjourned and its members returned home to launch their re-election campaigns, Gov. Brad Henry vetoed HB 2633, in part because it might produce unforeseen or unintended consequences.

The governor's action was a good one; his reasoning was sound. Still, the veto required courage, especially if he intends to seek public office in the future. Henry is to be commended for taking a stand on this issue and saving the state from an ill-conceived and embarrassing law.

No comments: