published Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

Tenn. House panel approves bill allowing students to express “religious viewpoints”

NASHVILLE — Local school boards would be required to let select students voluntarily express their “religious viewpoints,” be they Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Wiccan or atheist, at football games, school assemblies and graduation ceremonies under a bill moving in the House.

The "Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act” passed the House Education Committee today on a voice vote after a motion to put it into summer study was tabled.

Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, the bill’s sponsor, said his legislation is needed to protect students. If anyone has issues with the bill, Holt said, “then you’re expressing your problem with the First Amendment and not with my bill.”

Attorney Chuck Cagle, who represents a number of school boards, asked to speak “bluntly” on the bill and warned “the one thing that we tend to forget when we’re talking about religious activity in schools, those religious activities don’t cover just those of us who are Protestant.

“They cover everybody. They cover the Wiccans and those of Jewish faith. ... The 7th Circuit has even recognized that atheism is a religion,” Cagle said, noting such a law would cause school boards and communities “heartburn.”

For complete details, see tomorrow’s Times Free Press

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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