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Orwellian is a term that can get tossed around without much thought but in the strange case of Mississippi House Bill 278, the term seems quite appropriate. If passed into law the state will place surveillance cameras in every single primary school and public institution of secondary education.

Introduced by Republican Representative Stacey Hobgood-Wilkes the statute’s purpose is to fight critical race theory and “different issues.” As an added bonus the cameras would in theory help with disciplinary problems. Any incidents committed by students would be recorded.

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Now, you may think cameras in classrooms are bad. And they are. However, the bill goes much further than that.

Each local public school district and public postsecondary educational institution shall install video surveillance cameras, equipped with audio reception technology, into each classroom of all school facilities under their respective authority, which provide daily instruction, as well as in the auditorium, gymnasium, interior corridors, cafeteria, designated recreational activity areas and on the exterior parameters of each such school facility.  Additionally, each point of access that allows for the entry and exit of individuals shall also be under video surveillance.HB278

That’s right, auditoriums, interior corridors, cafeterias, and recreational areas as well as entry points and exits would have surveillance. The bill states people in those areas have “no reasonable expectation of privacy.”

Besides the glaring issues HB278 poses in terms of academic freedom, privacy, and free speech is this the best use of taxpayer dollars? USA Today in 2021 ranked the states according to healthcare, education, economy, infrastructure, opportunity, fiscal stability, crime and corrections, and natural environment. Overall, Mississippi ranks 49th (Louisiana ranks 50th). Its education ranking is 43rd, its healthcare is considered the worst in the nation, and its economy the 49th. Maybe, just maybe taxpayer dollars should be spent in areas that would benefit the welfare of its citizens instead of fighting insipid culture wars.

Mississippi’s politicians seem dead set on attacking personal liberty, proposing ridiculous legislation, and eroding whatever is left of the wall separating church and state. OnlySky’s Hemant Mehta recently reported that there is a bill in the state’s legislature that would allow prayers over school intercoms if the US Supreme Court overturns the case that declared school-sponsored prayers unconstitutional.

As it stands, state law allows public schools to have a moment of silence up to 60 seconds at the beginning of the day. Earlier this month, however, State Rep. Oscar Denton (a Democrat) proposed HB 79, which would allow “non-sectarian, non-proselytizing student-initiated prayer” over the intercom. Participation by the rest of the school would be voluntary.

Those caveats are irrelevant, though. When students are praying over the loudspeaker, there’s no real way to opt out. (What are you going to do? Plug your ears?) The school would be promoting religion by handing over the public address system to any student who wanted to use it for prayer. In a “highly religious” state like Mississippi, where 83% of people are Christian and 14% of people have no religious affiliation, it’s virtually guaranteed that the “non-sectarian” prayers would promote some flavor of Christianity.

Autocratic/theocratic moves like these are signs of a sick society that’s more concerned about fighting imagined threats than dealing with real-world problems. The political leaders of Mississippi seem intent on *Dunning-Krugering for the foreseeable future.

If you’re looking for a laugh, how about checking out comedian Anthony Jeselnik’s story about the Bible?


*Yes, I just made it into a verb, and I’m happy with that.

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You may enjoy reading Secular Meditation: 32 Practices for Cultivating Inner Peace, Compassion, and Joy (Amazon link).

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Andrew Hall escaped a childhood of religious indoctrination and is now a non-miserable human being. He's made millions of people laugh as well as angry. (He hopes he's made the right people annoyed.) Targets...