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

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

March 27th, 2012 by Andy Sher in Local - Breaking News

The Tennessee State Capitol in downtown Nashville.

Photo by The Tennessean /Times Free Press.

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