On Wednesday, February 8, the House General Subcommittee of Education will discuss a bill that attempts to perpetuate the endorsement of religion by public schools. The “Public Schools as Sunday Schools” bill prohibits school boards and personnel from taking any action that infringes on the First Amendment rights of students or staff without their written consent.
Sounds good, but this bill is actually an attempt to perpetuate the endorsement of religion by public schools. Under the First Amendment, school staff already have the right to practice their religion, so long as they do it in a way that doesn’t influence students. So the only purpose for this bill is to allow school personnel to practice religion in a way that does influence students, under the guise of protecting school staff’s First Amendment rights.
School boards are charged with ensuring that students from all faiths can make religious decisions with their families and faith communities, free from fear of coercion by school officials. This vague and overreaching bill impedes school boards’ ability to take action, when needed, to protect students from proselytization.
Hampering the ability of these entities to make decisions governing the schools is not only a bureaucratic nightmare, it’s insulting to those individuals tasked with and dedicated to ensuring the quality of Tennessee’s schools.
Lawmakers have introduced a flurry of bills this session intended to promote the endorsement of religion by public schools. Thank you for standing with us as we continue to fight for religious decisions to be made by families and not schools.