Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review applaud Saudi Arabia for standing up to Iran’s attack on it’s embassy by cutting off ties with the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism. They also groan as President Obama readies more executive orders on gun control. And they discuss the exodus of more than 20 Ben Carson staffers at the end of 2015.
News and Politics
It’s time to put on the tuxedos and hand out the crystal martinis. It’s the start of our year-end political awards for 2015. Today Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review hand out their choices for most underrated, most overrated and most honest political figures.
Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review are impressed with National Review’s Charles C.W. Cooke for exposing liberals who demand we “do something” to stop mass shootings but don’t actually have any ideas. They also sigh at another disappointing jobs report. And they have fun with the news that eight members of the Iranian women’s soccer team were actually men.
Every December, Americans celebrate many different holidays, including Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, New Years Eve, The Winter Solstice and even Festivus. Why? Because they have personal and social meaning. That’s why many public school students and teachers would like to take time to recognize and celebrate the holidays in the classroom as well.
But not everyone is happy about the idea of recognizing religious holidays in public education. Organizations like the Freedom from Religion Foundation, the American Humanist Association and the ACLU don’t believe that public schools should allow holiday celebrations. They argue that these activities unintentionally support a particular religious view and proselytize the students .
American Center for Law and Justice Senior Counsel David French says this fight has been in the courts for years. It’s only now that some people are trying to fix this. Lawmakers in multiple states have submitted legislation that would allow schools the freedom to recognize and celebrate religious traditions without fear of legal suit.
The most recent legislation is known as the “Tennessee Merry Christmas Bill”. It was submitted by Tennessee Senator Stacey Campfield in August 2013, and passed by the State Senate in February and the House of Representatives in March 2014. Senator Campfield says that too many people fear being sued over celebrations of the holidays, which he thinks is absurd.
Campfield’s bill was written to protect public schools from being sued if a teacher or student chooses to celebrate a winter holiday, as long as the school includes more than one religious tradition in the practice. A public school would be equally protected as as long as they have a Santa Claus display and a Nativity set on-campus. It’ll also allow campuses to have both a menorah and a Festivus pole on campus without complaint.
The support for such laws seems fairly high. The Tennessee Merry Christmas bill received a 30-0 vote in the State Senate, and an 83-4 vote in the House. Texas, Oklahoma and Indiana have all passed very similar bills. Both Campfield and French are excited about the bill.
“Is it the end-all be-all? No. Is it a step in the right direction? I think so.” Campfield said. “There’s a lot of major threats to religious liberty in our country right now. But any pushback is welcome.” French added.
While many support this bill, the Freedom from Religion Foundation does not. Cofounder Annie Laurie Gaylor found it to be problematic.
“The purpose of a school is to educate, not to indoctrinate….nobody needs to be educated by Christmas by putting up Nativity scenes in public schools. That is not an educational message, that is a doctrinal message, and is improper in our schools. Furthermore, it isn’t only coercive to students, but it is usurping the parent’s right to educate their children how they wish about religion.”
Gaylor wants to maintain a neutral educational environment where only the natural world is represented and where no religious ideas, such as miracles, are given time.
She says allowing religious displays into schools would unintentionally imply that the government supports that belief; and thus move the education closer to indoctrination.
It’s clear that the divisions in the debate come from their different understandings of the First Amendment, the relationship between religion and state, and the difference between education and indoctrination. While bills like the Tennessee Merry Christmas bill are water drops in the larger legal debate, what happens in the State House this month will impact how religious freedom is treated by the courts on a local, state, and possibly on the national level.
Virginia is the latest battleground in the debate over religious homeschooling and the educational rights of parents and children.
Homeschoolers are spreading like wildfire across the country, but they aren’t allowed to do whatever they wish. Each state has its own rules for what is required to homeschool. Most require some form of report and testing to keep the parents in check.
Virginia has the most unique statutes in the country. Its Constitution allows parents to homeschool their children without reporting to their school board. If allowed, they can teach their children under the Religious Exemption clause, which permits students to be excused from public school if it is done because of religious beliefs.
This method frees thousands of Virginia parents to teach their children according to their religious convictions. It also helps establish what Home School Legal Defense Association Senior Counsel Scott Woodruff describes as a “Wall of separation”.
“This wall of separation, on the one hand, protects government sponsored schools from having religion come in and influence and control them. On the other hand, it protects religious education from the government coming in and issuing mandates” said Woodruff.
But is this healthy for students?
A recent bill sought to address this in the Virginia House of Delegates. Delegates Tom Rust and Vivian E. Watts sponsored the bill in hopes of finding more information on those who are studying under the Religious Exemption statute.
“It is in no way an effort to overturn the religious exemption…. I do think we have a responsibility to make sure that young people are getting an adequate education to prepare them for adulthood” said Delegate Rust.
The bill proposed that Virginia’s education department study how individual school districts evaluate applications for the Religious Exemption, as well as confirm whether the district is checking in with parents and reviewing their case. Once this information was gathered, it would be analyzed by the Department of Education, and suggestions would be made to amend the clause, so that students are receiving the best possible education.
While the bill failed in committee, the questions it asked were hotly debated by those fighting for stronger homeschool regulations as well as by those who are for lessening the restrictions.
Those opposing the bill, including the Homeschool Legal Defense Association, believe that the bill provided no new answers.
“The overt purpose [of the bill] is to ask five questions, but we know this to be illegitimate because we already know the answers to the questions” says Woodruff.
Also known as the HSLDA, the Homeschool Legal Defense Assocation also argues that the study would covertly pave the way towards limiting parental rights. The HSLDA worries about these potential limitations, for it believes that “The liberty of parents to direct the upbringing, education, and care of their children is a fundamental right.”
Others, like the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, argues that the data is needed since there are no other sources.
“There’s a lot of unknowns in this [study] and we have not even filed these up with these homeschool students who have graduated…...there’s a lot we don’t know” said CHRE’s Executive director Heather Doney.
The CRHE was founded off of a belief that “Homeschooling laws….is seriously lacking in protections for the rights of children and youth.” Because of this, it avidly supports developing policies and regulations which protect kids from abuse and make it possible for them to get the best possible education.
The recent legislation in Virginia was designed to determine how homeschool students studying under the religious exemption are doing. But the debate shows that parents, legislators, and students are divided over the pivotal question of who comes first legally, the parent or the child.
Radio America’s Morgan Wampler speaks with experts from Heritage Foundation, Numbers USA and Federation for American Immigration Reform that will weigh in on Obama’s recent executive order on immigration. Critics discuss the consequences this executive order may yield, while proposing E-Verification as a solution.