Archive for Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Lawmaker takes issue with article

March 12, 2008

This is in response to a recent story published in The Bonner Springs Chieftain and The Shawnee Dispatch that contained inaccurate statements and inferences regarding recent legislation I introduced in the Kansas House of Representatives.

The legislation, HB 2779, The Religious Liberty Bill of Rights, clarifies students' and teachers' inalienable rights to express religious beliefs on a public school campus, and conversely, that teachers not be required to teach a topic that violates their religious beliefs.

This piece of legislation is meant to clarify the misunderstanding that there is a constitutionally guaranteed separation of church and state.

Based upon the responses of a local school superintendent and high school principal quoted in the article, there is clearly some confusion surrounding this issue. That was the reason for the bill; to confirm that there is no part of the U.S. Constitution or federal law that provides such "separation of church and state."

This proposed legislation, HB 2799, aims merely to clarify students' and teachers' rights under the U.S. Constitution. The state should not promote nor discourage religious discrimination; it is to remain neutral.

These provisions in the proposed HB 2779 legislation are in accordance with the U.S. Constitution regarding freedom of speech and religious expression. However, in The Chieftain and Dispatch articles, no mention of this was made. Instead, the article attempted to stir up controversy by asserting hypothetical situations and quoting school officials' responses about the bill being "a violation of separation of church and state."

Your reporter also did not cite the fact that the provisions of HB 2779 are agreed upon by a diverse coalition that includes the National Education Association, the National School Boards Association, the National PTA, the Christian Legal Society and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. This is documented in a publication titled, "The Teacher's Guide to Religion in the Public Schools," which is available on my Web site at owendonohoe.com.

I believe there is much confusion surrounding this issue. This bill addresses this misunderstanding, clarifies the matter and confirms students' and others' inalienable rights of religious expression.

I appreciate the opportunity to address the inaccuracies in your article and encourage your readers to learn more about this and other legislation on my Web site, owendonohoe.com.

- Rep. Owen Donohoe, R-Shawnee, is in his first term in the Kansas House.

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