Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Are Matthew Hill and Stacey Campfield Trying to Keep Kids Out of Religious School Groups?

Posted by on Wed, Mar 23, 2011 at 11:52 AM

The Davidson County Young Democrats are all over Hill and Campfield's SB0426, which would require parental permission for students to join school groups.

The DCYD get at the implications of the bill:

How could a bill that mandates that schools tell parents about all the clubs available at the school, their mission, and the details of the club be bad? Why should we be concerned about it? How is it “ugly”?

Good questions. I’m glad you asked. HB 0432 is “ugly” because, like so many of Sen. Campfield’s bills, this one too is a shot aimed right at gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Tennesseans.

Sure, it seems like this law is designed to let homophobic parents keep their kids out of pro-LGBT groups.

But here's the question Christians might ask: Wouldn't this law also allow the children of non-Christians to prevent their Christian kids from joining groups such as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes? Sure seems like it. Atheist Mom and Dad could just go on down the list and exclude their kid from every Christian religious organization. Is that really what Campfield and Hill want?

Perhaps the more intriguing question is whether the law would stand up to legal scrutiny. The state can't make laws governing people's religious practices. Parents do have some right to overrule their children's religious preferences. But courts have ruled that, as children approaches the age of majority, they gain more rights. Plus this bill makes no exception for students who've reached 18 and who are legally adults.

It'll be interesting to see if the courts believe that parents should have the right to ban their children from joining religious groups — even 18-year-olds. But even if they agree that parents should have the right to ban their children from joining religious groups, it will be especially interesting to see if the courts believe the government has the constitutional authority to enforce said ban. Can your secular, taxpayer-funded school tell you that you can't belong to a Christian organization because your parents won't let you? Can a public school enforce someone's religious wishes for their kids?

I'm not sure that's going to fly with the courts.

And now you can see the legal quagmire opening up, right? School systems can't have one set of rules for religious groups and another for secular groups. So Campfield and Hill's law puts school systems in a jam. If they try to protect the religious rights of students by not letting parents opt students out of religious groups, they'd be violating this law. If they follow Campfield and Hill's law, they've left themselves open to lawsuits for violating their students' religious rights.

So either they'd have to ban all religious groups at school — which would not be very popular with most Tennesseans — or they'd have to ban all extracurricular groups at school — which would be even less popular with most Tennesseans.

Do we think that hating on GLBT students is so popular among Tennesseans that even homophobic Christians are willing to go along with this bill? Or are we going to see homophobic Christians joining with GLBT people to stand in opposition to it, in order to protect their own religious freedom?

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