The Secular Coalition for America and American Atheists are once again taking 16 state bills that promote religion through the government and pitting them against each other in a March Madness-like tournament to determine the “Worst State Bill” in the country.
Among the more shocking bills on the list:
Indiana, HB 1422: Would allow a person to legally carry a firearm onto school property if the person possesses the firearm: (1) as an employee or volunteer of a house of worship located on the school property; or (2) while attending a worship service or religious ceremony conducted at a house of worship located on the school property.
South Carolina, HB 4949: Would define same-sex marriages as “parody marriages”, explicitly states that these marriages are inherently “nonsecular” because they entangle the government with the “religion” of secular humanism and thereby violate the establishment clause.
Mississippi, HB 1505: Would allow parents to send their children to public school unvaccinated if they have a religious objection to vaccines.
Last year’s “champion” was Texas’ SB 651, which would allow for sweeping religiously-based discrimination by licensed professionals, including nurses, therapists, and even public school teachers. (It didn’t pass.)
Obviously the whole point of this is to remind people that these are real bills being considered in certain states. If you live in the affected areas, you shouldn’t just vote. You should be emailing your representatives and lobbying in person if possible. Encourage them to reject these bills.
“Some of the boldest attacks against our secular government are coming from state lawmakers who believe their legislation won’t attract much scrutiny or resistance,” said Larry T. Decker, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America. “This campaign is an opportunity for us to shine a light on these state-level theocrats, many of whom have been emboldened by the Trump Administration and are eager to enact their agenda before the upcoming 2018 elections. The first step toward fighting back against these bills is to educate voters about them. The majority of Americans recognize the importance of keeping religion and government separate. By exposing what these lawmakers are doing and empowering voters with the facts, we’re hopeful that they will speak up, take action, and make their voices heard at the ballot box.”
“In state legislatures across our country, the separation of religion and government are under attack. ‘Madness’ is an apt term for this often poorly drafted and ill-conceived legislation which is all-too-frequently the focus of state lawmakers,” said Alison Gill, Legal and Policy Director for American Atheists. “Instead of trying to legislate obedience to their religion, permit discrimination, and undermine the US Constitution, state lawmakers should focus on addressing real issues to improve the lives of their constituents.”
The first round of voting is going on right here. Links to future rounds will be provided on Twitter.
(Image via Shutterstock. Portions of this article were published earlier)