In a guest appearance on KNUS 710 AM's Backbone Radio, state Sen. Dave Schultheis (R-Colorado Springs) failed to note a key element of his "religious bill of rights" measure, and host John Andrews did not challenge the omission. Schultheis made a similar omission during a January broadcast of 630 KHOW-AM's The Peter Boyles Show.
During a February 11 interview with KNUS 710 AM Backbone Radio host John Andrews about Senate Bill 138, the so-called "religious bill of rights" for public schools, state Sen. Dave Schultheis (R-Colorado Springs) neglected to note a provision in the bill that would hold "individual members of local [school] boards personally liable for lawsuits brought under the act if the local board fails to adopt policies and procedures to implement the act or to ensure compliance with the act."
According to Schultheis' website, the purpose of SB 138 is "to raise awareness, among those who interface with the public school system, of the religious liberties bestowed by the Creator and guaranteed to students, faculty and staff, in accordance with the 1st Amendment to the Constitution."
As Colorado Media Matters noted, Schultheis left out key details of the bill during an appearance on the January 31 broadcast of 630 KHOW-AM's The Peter Boyles Show by asserting that "all" SB 138 would do is "force awareness in the public school systems of what the First Amendment already guarantees in terms of religious liberty." Schultheis failed to note the "opt-out" provisions for parents or students who object to "the use of specific course material that is inconsistent with his or her religious beliefs," as well as the provision making school board members personally liable if they do not enforce the measure should it become law. Schultheis later told the Denver Daily News regarding the omission, "It's hard to remember everything of a bill."
Although Schultheis discussed the opt-out provisions on Andrews' show, he did not mention that his bill seeks to amend Colorado's statutory law such that:
[A] member of a local board of education shall be held personally liable if the member willfully and wantonly fails to administer his or her duties with respect to this Article, including establishing and implementing policies and procedures. If a plaintiff prevails in an action to defend his or her religious rights pursuant to this Article, members of the local board of education shall be personally liable for the plaintiff's attorney fees and they shall be subject to personal liability for damages.
Schultheis' website states that "[a]n amendment will be offered at the hearing to remove the personal liability portion of [SB 138] and instead require adherence as a condition for accreditation." Neither Andrews nor Schultheis noted this proposed amendment during the broadcast.
From the February 11 broadcast of KNUS 710 AM's Backbone Radio:
ANDREWS: I'm watching the clock as we talk with state Senator Dave Schultheis of Colorado Springs, and I particularly want Backbone Radio listeners to know about a very important bill -- Senate Bill 138 -- which Senator Schultheis has introduced without any false hope that Democrats will embrace it and allow it to forward in the process. But what's this idea, Senator, of a religious bill of rights in Colorado public schools? What, what's the problem you're trying to address and how do we address it?
SHULTHEIS: Sure. Well, you know, for years I've been watching the ACLU [American Civil Liberties Union] come in and intimidate school district after school district and basically using a phony excuse of separation of church and state, and threats of lawsuits, and so forth against them to basically do the ACLU's bidding. And seeing good organizations like the Alliance Defense Fund and others -- ACLJ [American Center for Law & Justice] -- you know, trying to fight back on this and actually winning almost every case that they fight on this, I realized that this is a real serious problem. And so, sitting with some friends of mine a few weeks -- a couple months ago, we said, you know -- one of them said, "You know, why do we allow this to happen? Why aren't we advising people what their rights are?" And from that came the bill that basically would require every school, school facility to post -- like we do our labor laws and like we do a patients bill of rights in hospitals and so forth -- the religious bill of rights for teachers as well as for students, and then to make sure that those students and teachers and administration get a copy of this every year, and has to sign that they've been exposed --
ANDREWS: Well, Senator, what are some of the rights that would be -- that would be called to the attention of teachers, parents, and students?
SCHULTHEIS: OK, well, you know, the -- there's, there's quite a number of them -- they've all been adjudicated. Student rights such as expressing his or her religious beliefs on a public school campus; school-sponsored events to the same extent that he or she may express personal secular views; participate in private religious ceremonies held on public schools outside of instructional time; use of religious greetings; express their faith, if you will, on assignments --
ANDREWS: Religious greeting as something as simple as "Merry Christmas" in December?
SCHULTHEIS: Just like that, yes, but it's actually more. If they -- they're given a school assignment to, say, to write a poem or something and it's not said that you have to do it on a particular subject, they could do it on a religious subject. And they shouldn't be chastised or anything. And then -- and they can opt out, as well, of any class that they feel is opposed to their moral values.
ANDREWS: What sort of push back are you getting? Where is this bill going to be --
SCHULTHEIS: The push back is coming from the teachers unions and from the Colorado board of -- you know, Colorado School Boards Association.