- Created on 12 March 2014
By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
A public hearing was held Tuesday, March 11, on a bill allowing Alabama’s local school boards to decide whether or not they want to implement the highly controversial new Alabama College and Career Ready Standards, which were based on the unpopular Common Core Standards which are being pushed on the states by the administration of President Barack H. Obama. Senator Scott Beason (R) from Gardendale is the sponsor the opt-out bill, SB 443.
Sponsor Senator Scott Beason, Senator Vivian Figures (D) from Mobile, Senator Bill Hightower (R) from Mobile (who came in towards the end), and Chairman Dick Brewbaker (R) from Montgomery were the only Senators on the ten member committee who even bothered to attend. Proponents of the bill and opponents were allowed to speak for five minutes each.
Sen. Beason said there was not much left to explain about the bill, though there was some misinformation out there. Beason said that he was still for total repeal and that he did not favor the education experiment that we are putting our children through. SB 443 is a compromise that allows the decision on implementation of the new standards.
Senator Beason said that the standards we had were very good standards. Texas and Virginia have both opted out of the Common Core. “The same kind of promises were made in No Child Left Behind” and everybody wanted out of that just a few years into the program. “Lets let duly elected local school boards make this decision.”
A representative of the Elmore County school system spoke in opposition to the bill. She said that this is a State Board of Education matter and that our school board unanimously voted that they are opposed to SB 443 and embrace the Common Core Standards.
She said that she met with Rep. Mike Holmes (R) from Wetumpka and it was a very positive and meaningful experience. “We had a very open exchange,” and she hoped their meeting helped clarify some of the issues. “I am an elected official. I am always available to discuss the issues.” She said, “We have had zero people show up at a board meeting to oppose,” common core and finds all of this to be rather perplexing.
Danny Hubbard spoke in favor of SB 443. “Senator Beason mentioned in the bill that local boards have the option to opt out of common core.” We have proven in our research that this is part of a federal movement. “Common core gave the states the option to add 15% to the standards,” Alabama added just 9%.
Katey Campbell Smith spoke in opposition of SB 443. “I am member of Macon County Board of Education...I come before you to oppose SB 443 and any effort to legislate Alabama’s education standards. I support Alabama College and Career Ready Standards.”
“Education in Alabama is not a collection of one room schools. The state school board sets the standards. The local school boards implement those standards...What the bill offers is simply an illusion and would require us to put to in place out dated standards.”
Smith said, “It makes no sense and would dismantle state testing and accountability. Alabama School Boards support Alabama College and Career Ready Standards...I am proud of the Alabama standards. I stand here to protect our standards.”
Eunie Smith the President of Alabama Eagle Forum said, “Our position remains that we favor total repeal of common core and replacement with proven standards.” Eunie Smith said, “Parental control is best close to home” and that Eagle Forum supports, “Alabama standards that reflect Alabama values.” “Go back to the standards that you have.”
President Smith said in a prepared statement,
“Common Core standards are not research based. The only professional mathematician on the Common Core validation committee, Dr. James Milgram, says they lower the bar, fail to prepare high school students for STEM, and will put students two years behind other countries. The only English professor on the committee, Dr. Sandra Stotsky, explains that common core is unlikely to prepare students for college and will stunt students’ critical thinking skills by replacing much classic literature with informational reading such as EPA regulations, etc. This is a surrender to the idea that most students should be trained for static jobs in the global economy as cc declares, not nurtured as creative human beings with hearts and minds and souls.”
President Smith said, “Significantly, a 2013 analysis by Stanford and the Economic Policy Institute shows U. S. schools are NOT being outpaced by international competition. One-size-fits-all national standards with their inevitable political indoctrination can be expected to squelch ingenuity and further undermine American exceptionalism and private enterprise.”
Martha Peek from the Mobile public schools said, “Educators in Alabma are committed to providing high quality educational opportunities for students in Alabama.” Peek claimed that education moves through different cycles of education thought. “Today’s term is college and career ready.”
Peek said that “Is one of the most meaningful goals set in Alabama in decades. “We must all unite to see that our young people are educated...College and career ready can not be just another term...The standards need to remain in place throughout Alabama...Principals and teachers who have studied the standards have embraced the standards.”
Dr. Julie Sebrice is the mother of four children and has actually worked with the controversial new Common Core math standards. She complained that the common core book jumped around from skill to skill and not enough time is spent on any skill for the children mastery. Her children had problems with the new math. “After a few months of this I hired tutors.” “I do not believe the common core math is well defined and it is developmentally inappropriate.”
Dr. Sebrice said, that eventually, she told her children that school math is just for fun and we do our math work at home.
Dr. Sebrice also objected to the new English standards. “I take issue with calling this vigorous.” Her daughter who is in the eighth grade in private school is studying the Odyssey while public schooled children are reading the “Hunger Games.” Homer’s ‘Odyssey is rated at a 10.3 grade reading level while ‘Hunger Games’ is just a 5.5 grade level difficulty.
Denise Burkhalter is a member of AVSB. “I come to here on behalf of my tenth grade public school daughter.” “What a tragedy it would be if my children did not have access to the college and career ready standards.”
Becky Gerritson has an education degree, is President of the Wetumpka Tea Party, and is a veteran home school parent. “Parents may very well demand that their school boards opt out.” Gerriton decried what she saw as political bias in the Common Core book on American History. It does not tell students the truth about America. It does not tell the truth about slavery. Slavery was an institution for thousands of years before the founding of this country. “Students are led to believe that Benjamin Franklin opposed the Constitution.” “Americans are portrayed as barbaric murderers when they dropped the bomb on Hiroshima.”
Students are diverted from literature issues into things like space travel. According to Gerritson one of the recommended books in the literature Common Core list is a book by Toni Morrison. The book is about a 13 year old girl who is sexually abused by a Priest. Gerritson read aloud from a section of the book told through the eyes of the Priest sex molester and read sexual slang words and sexual sensations that the editor of the Alabama Political Reporter would not allow me to repeat here. Chairman Brewbaker demanded that President Gerritson stop reading from the book.
“This book and other books like it are vile and inappropriate,” Gerritson said.
Since the hearing, Alabama State School Superintendent Tommy Bice has said that that book is not on a reading list anywhere in this state and will not be.
“Pass this bill protect our children,” Gerritson said.
Suzanne Colbreth, the 2013 teacher of the year and mother of two said, “I oppose SB 443.” “I have in my hands 50 emails from teachers all over the state. Each and every one of the wholeheartedly support the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards.”
Hubert “Bud” Johnson from Madison County identified himself as a rocket scientist and businessman. “The content is the question. We are not opposed to standards.” “I would like to see common core repealed altogether.” SB 443 is a step in the right direction
Ken Freeman from Morgan County said, “We have been through this many times and we will go through this some more it appears...Common core has the potential for creating a permanent educational underclass...There are psychological affects of testing. For a child experiencing poverty in a single family home, they respond to additional stress by shutting down...Rich people have the resources to do whatever they have to do to protect their children. Poor children don’t get tutors or get to go to a private school."
Freeman said jobs are important but they are not necessarily producing a quality life. All that the Business Council of Alabama wants is workers. “Slaves have jobs.” They do not have choices or freedom. “Without free will you are a slave.” “When we hear the Superintendent talking about business as the consumer,” shows that the state department is concerned with “Creation of a dumbed down workforce.” Even the NEA has come out against this and the New York Teachers Union has solidly opposed this.
The Director of human resources at Austal, Sandra Couplis said, We are very proud of the workforce we have in Alabama and have over 500 openings on the books for this year. This growth at Austal did not happen overnight. She said that Austal is lucky to have a state that they can work with. “Please do not take that away.” A highly skilled technical workforce needs problem solving skills. That is critical to ship builders. Those skills need to be devloped at an early age.
The Director of the Alabama Legislative Watchdogs, Ann Eubank, said that she is here in support of SB 443. Common core has taken our country’s greatest gift, freedom of choice, away. Eubank warned that information gleaned by the state through Common Core whether given freely or taken by the Department of education will shared with HHS, the IRS, and Homeland Security. “This bill gives the right of privacy back to the parents.”
Eubank said that Common Core takes away the right of the student in the future based on tests in the eighth grade to determine is or her aptitude for future jobs. “Testing in the 8th grade put them on a career path for life.” Once lost There is no chance to regain that choice.
Eubank warned that Common Core teaches leftist theories like environmentalism, global warming, and collectivism. “We don’t build hybrid cars in Alabama.”
Charles Elliot with the state board of education said that these are good standards. Switching back to the old standards will lead to a total disruption of our students in Alabama and ignores the course of study committee. Elliot said that he is opposed to, “Shifting this political debate to our 135 school boards.”
Stacy Tolbush from Leeds moved here from Missouri with her three children. Tolbush complained that since Leeds City Schools adopted the new standards her children have suffered. I have been told that I do not have the option of opting out of Common Core. I was told by teachers that they are just following order. I was told not to teach my children myself. I was told ‘Don’t box her (Tolbush’s daughter) in to my way of thinking.” I asked to see a text book….No reply. I have to spend 2 to 3 hours a night teaching my children myself. “My Superintendent (John Moore) mocked me when I took my concerns to him.” “I have to teach my children the old math. I make less than $30,000 a year. I can’t afford private school.
While I want the whole thing to go away I support SB 443. I don’t matter to my children’s school superintendent.
Sonya Griffith, the PTA President in Madison, said “I support the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards.”
Retired Marine Major Smith from Morgan County said that the overflow crowd of over 200 people on both sides in the room, “Shows that there are a lot of folks in Alabama that care about education.” Smith said, “Let counties and city school boards make a judgment call,” on which standards to use. “The closer that the government is to the people the better.”
Connie Spears said she serves on the Madison City Board of Education. “I support the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards.” “I know how hard it is to more from school to school.”
Billy Canary who heads the powerful Business Council of Alabama (BCA) said that BCA urges you to vote no on SB 443. The voices of business in Alabama support the College and Career Ready Standards and feels that they are the cornerstone of the state’s Plan 2020
“Our children need to be the best educated work force” and “Elimination of these standards would be a disservice to our children.”
Kelly Barry from Morgan County said, “I am opposed to Common Core.” “I am opposed slightly to this bill because we did not put in the funding limits on expanding common core.” I have been in private business as well. Follow the money. All of the opponents are employees of the school system while all the proponents have all volunteered and come at their own expense.
“One of the things I am concerned about is truth. The Founders set up the school systems to be sure that Truth and Morals were taught. I don’t see us teaching truth and morality.
Elizabeth Davis is a member of the state’s Course of Study Committee and also works in the Tuscaloosa City Schools. “I am opposed to this bill. I find it hard to understand why we would want to go back to 1999 standards.” I would not want to go back to a doctor from 1999. Overturning Common Core would be educational malpractice.
Davis said that they were asked to use the Common Core to create the Alabama Course of Studies.
Dr. Terry Batton from Eufaula said, “For 50 plus years I have been sharing the Gospel.” “I took time to look at the Common Core Standards.” It concerns me that we have never dealt with the morality factor. We have left God out of these discussions.”
Morality is nonexistent in these standards. We must understand where we come from, where we are, and where we are headed. “Is our intellect Christ-like?” “There may be some good parts to Common Core.” “Christianity is not rated very high in the Common Core Standards. The principles of Christianity are not there. Where is the Bible? Where is the scriptures? We need this bill to pass. We should have the opportunity to choose
Dr. Batton continued, “I wonder how close we are to losing the America that we all love. We have got to have this SB 443 bill so that we can still have choice.” “The people of Alabama don’t want our children to be taught that homosexuality is ok as early as kindergarten. Alabama wants to choose what our children learn when they learn it and how they learn.
Social justice themes will be written in common core. Don’t trust anybody else, read it your selves. It teaches children that American is an unjust and oppressive society that must be changed. Common Core favors redistribution of wealth.
Dr. Batton concluded Common Core is a Trojan horse at the gateway of America’s educational system. The curriculum is against the principles of faith, family and freedom and will dilute and erode the influence of the lord in the minds of our children.
The Rainy Day Patriots Tea Party and Alabama Legislative Watchdogs are joining Alabama Homeschool groups at an event on Wednesday with signs at the state house steps to demonstrate their support for SB 443 from 8:45 to 3:15. Home School families will also be touring the state house. Call 205-908-8332 to secure a place on the tour.
The Committee will vote on SB 443 on Wednesday.
- Created on 12 March 2014
By Lee Hedgepeth
Alabama Political Reporter
Troy University Professor and recent Medicaid expansion analysis coauthor Scott Beaulier has been out in the media – on television and in print – defending his research, which directly challenges two previous studies done by UAB and UA examining the potential economic impact expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act could have on the state.
Beaulier's main speaking point against the previous research, and indeed what is the focus of the new Troy study, is “examining the assumptions” that UAB and UA made in their studies.
“We just relax a few of the assumptions made in their studies,” the Troy Professor and director of the Johnson Center for Political Economy recently said.
Examining a few assumptions of our own, APR took a look at the Troy Study, titled “Feasibility of Medicaid Expansion in Alabama,” and found early on – in the introduction – an incorrect assumption that Beaulier made then and continues to promulgate.
The introduction to the study takes on the air of political angst more than academic candor, even attacking RSA's David Bronner by name:
“Throughout 2013, the State of Alabama was inundated with media coverage of the cost of Alabama not expanding Medicaid under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The calls for expansion have continued into 2014 in spite of Governor Bentley’s repeated refusal to do so. For example, David Bronner, CEO of the Retirement Systems of Alabama. has included a monthly update in the RSA bulletin on the status of the expansion and drafted numerous op-eds pressuring Governor Bentley to expand the program,” The Johnson Center Study says.
Earlier this week, the Alabama Political Reporter pointed out that the Johnson Center was founded by money ($3.7 million) from the Koch Foundation, which donated about half that amount to Florida State University and received veto power over faculty appointments, eventually refusing 60% in one year.
In addition, Professor Beaulier also has close ties to the right wing think tank the Alabama Policy Institute, which is an outspoken opponent of expanding Medicaid under PPACA.
The introduction to the Troy University study continues:
“The media coverage has been primarily centered around two economic impact studies commissioned by the Alabama Hospital Association: The first conducted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Department of Health Care and Policy and another developed by the University of Alabama Center for Business and Economic Research. Unfortunately, these studies have been presented as independent research on the expansion of Medicaid in Alabama under the PPACA. Quite to the contrary, institutions that have a vested financial interest in the expansion have financed both studies. This paper seeks to examine the assumptions, models, and conclusions of the two studies. It will also offer an alternative model for considering the impact of the Medicaid expansion.”
In fact, Alabama Political reporter has confirmed that the Alabama Hospital Association did not commission or in any way fund the initial University of Alabama at Birmingham study, according to Danne Howard, a senior official with the group.
While the Alabama Hospital Association did commission the second, University of Alabama study, that particular study was only a retrospective analysis based on findings from the earlier UAB work.
Despite this, the Troy University study – which purports to more accurately assess assumptions – inaccurately assumes the worst of its Alabama public four university brethren, and Troy Professor Beaulier continues to assert emphatically that there is likely political or financial incentive for the UAB and UA studies' conclusions about Medicaid expansion the the Yellowhammer state – no matter how true that may or may not be.
- Created on 12 March 2014
By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
In the last few minutes of the 1977 Frost/Nixon interview, a very human moment occurred when Richard Nixon said,
“I let down my friends, I let down the Country, I let down our system of Government….”
If you have ever viewed the tapes and/or watched the film, Frost/Nixon, it is a profound admission of guilt. Most of the country had waited years for Nixon to confess—at least in some measure—to the wrongs he had committed and the needless pain and shame he had brought to our Republic.
Some today would like to rewrite history and whitewash over the Nixon incident all together. But in those seconds, Nixon did not try to wash away his sins, rather, he owned them before hundreds of millions of people.
As the camera focused in on his swollen and tired face he continued,
“...and the dreams of all those young people that ought to get into Government, but will think it is all too corrupt and the rest…”
Nixon was a man capable of seeing into the future and how actions shaped events, how certain events would affect attitudes and thusly change the country.
He saw that many good young men and women would turn from public service because of his corrupt acts.
Many politicians have done terrible things, but none have been so fully played out on the National stage.
Nixon is a tragic figure, a man of immense talent and intellect, yet, he had a fearsome dark side that would eventually be his undoing.
Sadly today, we see rampant corruption in the Alabama State House. Greed and a lust for power stinks like a rotting corpse and it permeates every corridor and every office.
Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard along with his followers have infected the political process with a deadly disease; one that can only be cured by amputation.
Even under the shadow of a Grand Jury investigation Hubbard and his minions continue to pass legislation that will enrich themselves and their cronies.
Nixon was a brilliant man capable of great things. Hubbard is like a child with an exaggerated sense of self. He doesn’t have the capacity for greatness, so, he plays the politics of distraction and destruction.
There is a flat screen television in Hubbard’s office that plays a continuous photo loop of Hubbard standing with famous people. In one shot he is standing alone in front of Air Force One. It is really a sad picture because he is standing so far away from the airplane. One could feel sorry from him, if he had not destroyed so many lives in his rise to power.
All Hubbard has achieved is to become a small tyrant, in the small world of Alabama politics.
He could have done great things for our State, rather, he chose a different path.
What must the wee hours of the night be like for a man like Hubbard? Does he sleep in peace or do specters of the men and women he has wronged haunt him? Does he wake with a start and play out a scenario in which a courtroom and a jail cell looms for him in the near future? Does he think about the shame he will bring on his family, friends and the State? Does he think about those young people he has influenced who will either give up on politics--or worse--imitate him?
After Nixon was broken, he actually realized the nature of his crime. I doubt Hubbard has that capacity.
Most people when confronted with their wrongdoing are not sorry for what they did but sorry they they were caught.
In those minutes when Nixon confessed to Frost I believe he was truly sorry for what he had done.
I wonder if Hubbard will have such a moment?
He is a tiny vessel perhaps incapable of any depth of reflection. It took years for our Country to recover from the sins of Nixon. Some believe we never have, while others claim its affect on America was minimal.
It will take Alabama time to right the wrongs caused by Hubbard and his followers. But, we will heal sooner than later if good men and women are elected to public office who have not been tainted by Hubbard’s corruption.
As with Nixon, Hubbard’s life will be a cautionary tale, one that shows when you steal the State House, your theft will be uncovered and payment by a righteous system of justice will be exacted.
House Passes Bill Preventing State Education Department from Licensing and Regulating Private Schools
- Created on 12 March 2014
By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Tuesday, March 11 the Alabama House of Representative passed Senate Bill 38, which clarifies a 1977 law about the authority of the State Department of Education and its relationship with private schools.
The bill was sponsored by Senator Dick Brewbaker (R) from Montgomery and was carried in the House by state Representative Joe Hubbard (R) from Montgomery.
Rep. Hubbard said that SB 38 bill would codify the current practice.
The bill prevents two year colleges, four year colleges, and technical skills from discriminating in favor of public school graduates over private and parochial schools on admissions.
Rep. Artis A.J McCampbell (D) from Livingston said, “My concern with this bill is that we are also debating common core. As I read this bill I am concerned that we are setting up different standards.” “How are we addressing that here?” “I am for private industry and private enterprise but there are certain things you should have to achieve.”
Rep. Hubbard said, “This bill was never intended to address common core. If it was I wouldn’t be standing here. This protects that ability of 2 year and 4 year colleges to set standards on the basis of test scores and other objective measures. “We wanted to protect that ability in the 2 year and 4 year standards.”
Representative Mary Moore (D) from Montgomery said, “You are opening up the door for the argument,” that a child who does not get accepted into some school was not accepted because they went to private school.
Rep. Hubbard said the post secondary schools are in favor of this legislation because it gives them something to point to too prove that your child was not admitted it was not due to discrimination.
Representative Mary Sue McClurkin (R) from Indian Springs introduced an amendment to the bill based on recommendations in wording by the Alabama Department of Education.
Rep. Hubbard said, “We will accept the amendment.”
Rep. Christopher John England asked if private schools are required to go through a certification process.
Rep. Hubbard said, “No.” “This codifies what is already established.”
Rep. Pebblin Warren (D) from Tuskegee asked to carry the bill over so that she could hold discussions with the State Department on establishing standards for Alabama’s private schools.
Rep. Hubbard said the amendment, “Is a state department amendment and I defer to their judgment. The state has never accredited private schools.”
Rep. Warren said that you are opening the door to more people coming into the state and starting up private schools.
Rep. Hubbard said, “We are not changing the law here.” There is no statute authorizing the process of the state accrediting private schools in Alabama. “It has never been done.”
Rep. Warren said, “Everybody has a watchdog. We are removing a watchdog. We are putting an entity in place where there is not a watchdog.”
Rep. Hubbard said, “We are not changing the law. That watchdog has never been there.”
Rep. Warren said, “This is the best example of a Democrat going over on a Democrat. It is all about the children.” Warren admitted, “All of my education came from a private education,” but warned “We should be concerned about the choices that we allow our constituents.”
Rep. John Knight (D) from Montgomery asked Hubbard whose bill is this?
Rep. Hubbard said, “This is not my amendment. I am carrying this bill for Senator Brewbaker. I am going to allow this amendment.”
The amendment was approved on a 66 to 28 vote.
Rep. Mary Moore (D) from Montgomery said that private schools had no accountability to anyone. “Over time what this bill does is it forces higher ed. standards to lower their standards. Moore complained that private schools don’t come under the authority of the state department of education.
Rep. Hubbard said, “It has always been that way in Alabama.”
Rep. Moore said, “What I am telling you is that Alabama is already at the bottom of the totem pole.”
Rep. Hubbard said that this bill resolves some inconsistency in the code. That is the primary purpose of this bill.
Rep. Hubbard said, “If the body deems to come back later and try to figure out what standards should be set for independent schools that is another bill.” “We have no direct control over those independent schools.” “We have to trust that those independent schools can regulate themselves.”
The bill passed by a vote of 65 to 25.
Over the summer the Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice announced plans to inspect, license and regulate private schools and charge them a licensing fee to pay for the new found regulatory authority. Supt. Bice cited a unique interpretation of this 1977 law to justify these new found powers and authority for his office. Parochial, religious, and independent school systems strongly objected to this proclamation and Bice was forced to back down by Governor Robert Bentley (R) and threats from legislators.
SB 38 fixes that rather unique interpretation of the 1977 statute.
Rep. Joe Hubbard is surrendering his seat in the legislature and instead is running as a Democrat for attorney general against incumbent AG Luther Strange (R).
- Created on 12 March 2014
By Susan Watson, Executive Director, ACLU of Alabama
When it comes to religion, Alabama lawmakers just can’t stop living in a bygone era: The legislature is poised to pass several troubling measures this session that would authorize public schools to impose official prayer on students and encourage schools and other governmental bodies to put up new displays of the Ten Commandments on public property.
Yes, it has been well settled for over half a century that official, public-school- sponsored prayers violate the separation of church and state. The Alabama legislature even played its own part in reaffirming that separation, when, in 1985, the Supreme Court struck down Alabama statutes intended to “return” prayer to schools.
Yes, the Supreme Court ruled more than thirty years ago that posting the Ten Commandments in public school classrooms is unconstitutional. And yes, a decade ago, after the ACLU of Alabama filed suit, a federal appeals court ruled that Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore could not install a gigantic monument of the Ten Commandments in the court’s rotunda. But this has not deterred state lawmakers from trying again and again to turn back the clock to a time when government bureaucrats routinely flouted the Constitution by discriminating against and marginalizing those of minority faiths and demanding that citizens conform to officially-favored religious beliefs.
Any day now, lawmakers may vote to amend the state constitution to provide that “[p]roperty belonging to the state may be used to display the Ten Commandments” and that “the right of a public school and public body to display the Ten Commandments . . . is not restrained or abridged.”
From a practical and economic perspective, the proposed amendment makes little sense. No state law can trump the Constitution. Cities, towns, and schools that decide to put up the Ten Commandments are thus likely to end up on the losing end of a lawsuit, and they won’t be able to use the new state constitution language as a defense. Recognizing that these displays tend to invite litigation and are often deemed unlawful, the amendment would also provide that “[n]o public funds may be expended in defense of the constitutionality of this amendment.”
Additionally, the ACLU of Alabama has opposed the amendment (HB 45 and SB 64) because religious monuments erected on government property send an exclusionary message to minority-faiths adherents and non-believers: “You are second-class citizens.” This message is detestable; it is un-American and unnecessarily divides communities along lines of faith. To enshrine this message in Alabama’s constitution would bring no small measure of shame to our state.
Although some have argued in response that the amendment would merely acknowledge the historical role the Ten Commandments have played, legislators have made their true aims clear. Sen. Trip Pittman explained to one reporter that “the purpose of these [displays] is the laws of God.” According to Pittman, “[P]eople who have followed those commandments have inhabited most of the world. They have procreated. They have remained healthy. They have respected private property. They haven’t borne false witness, which is now rampant on the Internet and caused all kinds of tragedies.” Apparently, in Pittman’s view, those who do not subscribe to Biblical doctrine are worse than second-class citizens; they are childless weaklings, thieves, and liars.
Lawmakers’ excursion to the past doesn’t end there, however. The legislature is also considering one bill (HB 318) that would require public school teachers to read a daily morning prayer to students and another (HB 281) that, under the guise or protecting religious expression, would set the stage to incorporate official, student- led prayer into a variety of school events. Again, it has been clear for more than a half-century that such practices violate the First Amendment.
Regardless of the source or content of school-sponsored prayers, they are simply off-limits, as Alabama legislators— and anyone with even a cursory understanding of the Bill of Rights— should well know.
Parents send their children to our public schools to be educated, not religiously indoctrinated.
Unfortunately, Alabama’s legislators are stuck in the past. It’s time that they step into the present and realize that, in a pluralistic and religiously diverse nation like the United States, religious liberty will thrive now and for future generations only if the government remains neutral on matters of faith and gives citizens the breathing room to decide for themselves where and when to pray, and what religious beliefs, if any, to follow.