This Week’s Political McNuggets: In which we find God in schools, Romney in NAACP-Land, and ethics pretty much nowhere
A few things I wanted to touch on today, but none of them really merit their own post:
Louisiana, Florida to Allow God to Have a Peek at Public Schools: Conservative legislators in Louisiana appear poised to pass SB 98. The bill, which is patterned after similar recent legislation in Florida, expressly allows students to talk about their faith at non-compulsory school events, including graduations and assemblies. Though the language used to sell the bill says it is designed to allow “inspirational messages,” it is obvious that the bill is intended to allow for all types of non-coercive religious discourse. It specifically states that it applies only to students, not faculty or other public employees or school contractors.
There is a lot about the politics behind this bill that make me uneasy. For one thing, the way it is being sold panders to its constituents’ worst instincts. The bill’s sponsor, Rep Charles Van Zant (R) claims that children not being allowed to pray in school is the direct source of disciplinary issues among students in America. (Never mind that students are, in fact, already permitted to pray in school.) But even so, I find that I like this bill – a lot.
As a risk manager, I can tell you that school boards and administrations, terrified of law suits, have a tendency to confuse the need for school employees not to proselytize with the need to shut down student voices about those religious matters that are of primal import to them. Every now and then you hear about some school that didn’t allow some valedictorian to read some poem or sing some song at graduation because it had the word “God” in it. (Sometimes these stories turn out to be ginned up, but a lot of times they are true.) So while I never see Johnny Law shutting down the quoting of a psalm in a student speech, I do see administrators – thinking that Johnny Law might – shut down a student prophylatically. If this law takes away that misunderstanding, then I see it as a good thing.
Rep. Jeff Clemens (D) asked if a student would be allowed to say “We believe Satanism to represent the reawakening of pagan spirituality, which with the foundation of National Socialism, will usher in the new Aeon.” This seems so academic an argument as to be meaningless to most voters; a far more interesting scenario will be when a Muslim student asks to quote the Quran in a graduation speech in a deeply conservative Christian community. However, Van Zant to his credit responded to Clemens by saying “[that] would be the student’s prerogative, because of our First Amendment right of free speech.” I see no reason not to take him at his word.
Mitt Romney & the NAACP: You know it’s a slow news week when the big story is that Romney may not have as much support as Obama in the African American community. Nonetheless, the hot election topic everyone seems to be talking about is that Mitt was booed giving a speech to the NAACP. In point of fact, his saying he would repeal Obamacare was booed; they appear to have applauded him at the end of his speech (if only politely). I have very little to say about this, except that I love that Romney spoke at all.
In today’s post-Palin world, no one running for office ever has to deal with people that disagree with them. Mitt could easily spend his time this week doing nothing but granting interviews to FOX and giving speeches to pro-Romney venues. That he chose to take his message to a group of people he knew would disagree with him is refreshing. And despite silly and moronic overreaction on both the right and the left over the boo-birds, I thought the response by the audience (listening politely and applauding his coming, but letting him briefly know in very specific places where they were dissatisfied with his vision) was exactly right.
I’d like to see more of this type of public political forum and discourse, both by candidates and audiences.
Public Disclosures Appear to Mean Nothing: As Elias has already pointed out, it appears that Mitt Romney’s public disclosure that he was out of Bain Capital in 1999 has been proven to be completely made up a typo. For me, what is most troubling about this is how inconsequential it appears a
fabrication oversight like this is by Washington DC Standards.
This week the bi-partisan House Ethics Committee released the verdict on its investigation of Vern Buchanan (R-FL). For those who are unaware, Buchanan faced ethics charges for failing to disclose all of his sources of income, and all of the entities in which he shares ownership – not just once, but for four consecutive years.
Buchanan was cleared of all charges by his fellow house members on the committee. The reason? Everyone does it. No, really