Friday, March 19, 2010

The Christian Student Veto Bill

Florida state representative Greg Evers (R-Baker) either is an idiot or he supposes his constituents are. Quite probably, both.

Evers is a state legislator from the netherworld of northern Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. He's also the brother of a teacher at notorious Pace High School. (Pity the unfortunate students at Pace who apply for admission to college. Thanks to principal Frank Lay and a handful of others in the secretarial pool and on the faculty, the school has earned a national reputation for rank stupidity.)

Evers was first elected in 2001 to fill the seat of Jeff Miller ("It's time for your business to go away") Miller, who was sent to Washington to become a feckless congressman. Since then, Evers has accomplished exactly zero in public office. Nothing. Zip. Nada. So, naturally, he's running for a promotion to replace term-limited Pistol Packin' Peaden as state senator.

Imagine! Three consummate idiots in a row -- Miller, Peaden, and Evers -- elected by what must be the dumbest collection of voters in the entire nation. Let this be a warning to anyone who contemplates moving to Northwest Florida.

Evers now is positioning himself for the coming election by pushing proposed legislation which "is designed" -- so says Rick Outzen's Independent News, relying on a report from Destin's Northwest Daily News -- "to allow student-initiated inspirational messages at some school events."

That's a misleading circumlocution. In fact, the bill is 'designed' to "require schools to set aside school time for any student request to express religious views," as Paul Flemming more candidly reports for the Pensacola News Journal.

House Bill 31 essentially tries to wedge "prayer" through the back door of public schools by giving anyone at the school, even a single student, absolute veto power over the policies and rules of "District school boards, administrative personnel, and instructional personnel." Here is the complete text of House Bill 31:
Delivery of inspirational message.-

(1) District school boards, administrative personnel, and instructional personnel are prohibited from discouraging or inhibiting the delivery of an inspirational message at a noncompulsory high school activity, including, but not limited to, a student assembly, a sports event, or other noncompulsory school-related activity, if the participating students request and initiate the delivery of such inspirational message.

(2) District school boards, administrative personnel, and instructional personnel are prohibited from taking affirmative action, including, but not limited to, the entry into any agreement, that infringes or waives the rights or freedoms afforded to instructional personnel, school staff, or students by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, in the absence of the express written consent of any individual whose constitutional rights would be impacted by such infringement or waiver. [italics added]
The bill is a deeply deceptive muddle. It doesn't address "voluntary" private prayer, of course, because that's always been allowed under the Constitution. Even we remember muttering a prayer or two just before a calculus exam. Individual, silent prayer is perfectly legal in public schools and always has been.

Instead, Evers' bill seeks to enable proselytizing prayer at public school-sponsored events which are "non-compulsory" and yet within the ultimate control of public school authorities. Think football games, thespian productions, school assemblies, or graduation exercises. These are "public school events" paid for with public tax money, even if attendance is non-compulsory. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution applies.

Accordingly, as another state rep, attorney Marty Kiar (D-Davie), points out, Evers' bill is "blatantly unconstitutional." State legislatures have no authority to interpret or limit "the supreme law of the land."

There's more. Notice there is no enforcement mechanism or penalty specified in Mr. Evers' bill. What that means is the promise of endless litigation in the courts.

"Any individual" who claims her "rights" to public prayer were infringed at a public school event, and who didn't give an "express written" waiver of those rights, will be free to file a legal claim -- however frivolous it might be -- in court. That's a prescription for bankrupting public school budgets, just to cover the attorney's fees in having multiple frivolous claims dismissed. (On the positive side of the ledger, it certainly will enrich the American Civil Liberties Union. They might even send Greg Evers a "thank-you" note.)

Consider a few what-ifs, should this ridiculous bill actually pass. There is no doubt that Greg Evers, a Baptist farmer who wouldn't know a well-drafted law if it hit him in the head, imagines his bill will advance "Christian" prayer. That's why his proposed bill essentially hands a veto over school board actions to every school student, teacher, secretary, janitor, and even childless crank in the land.

But what if some student who is Quaker, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Rastafarian, or even -- horribilis de horribilis! -- a secular humanist wants to "deliver" an "inspirational message" at half-time? Are that student's "First Amendment" rights violated if the school official in charge says 'no'?

What if a Northern Baptist doesn't care for the "inspirational message" delivered at a public school assembly by a Southern Baptist? Can she sue, too?

Would a Hasidic Jew waive his rights to hearing a loudspeaker message at half-time delivered by a Reform Jew? How would a member of the Baha'i faith react to an "inspirational" message in the lunchroom from a Wiccan? What about the response of an Episcopalian to an "inspirational message" in between acts of the school play from a member of the anti-gay Convocation of Anglicans in North America? Even "Christians" hate a lot of other "Christians" (we might almost say, "especially" Christians.)

So, hand them all a veto and an excuse for filing lawsuits against the school board and public school officials? It's all too ridiculous for words.

But that won't stop Greg Evers. He's running for higher office as a law-maker. He's obviously counting on the rank stupidity of voters of his district not to notice that he doesn't know the first thing about how to make laws that are consistent with the Constitution.

Dept. of Related Blogistry


Anonymous said...

Evers is a douche bag. He should be telling these people in north county the truth. The law suit is over. They can pray any where they want, just not on the tax payer dollar or in every body's face at school. He has no courage.

Anonymous said...

Who should we support in this Senate primary?
Are either of his opponents reasonably intelligent?