Michigan bill advocating students' rights parodied in left-leaning paper

by Karen L. Willoughby, |

LANSING, Mich. (Christian Examiner) -- A student wearing a colander on his/her head in honor of his 'deity' -- the flying spaghetti monster -- could become the norm in Michigan schools, a local satirical pundit suggested in a column picked up March 10, by the left-leaning Daily Koz online portal.

If House Bill 4147 becomes law, a group of Wiccans could "stand outside of Chemistry class raising a cone of power to help [students in the class] pass a big exam," the column continues, adding that this would be allowed under House Bill 4147, which was written to provide students with the right to practice their religion.

"Religious expression is all the rage now at school, and the students participate because they're protected by state law," according to the article posted on DailyKos.com that envisions life if House Bill 4147 were to become law.

The official document, in a bill co-sponsored by eight Michigan state representatives, would revise the school code to add:

  • "Shall not discriminate against a pupil ... on the basis of a religious viewpoint or religious expression."
  • "That a pupil may express his or her belief about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of the pupil's submission."
  • "That a student is not penalized or rewarded due to the religious content of his or her work.
  • "That a pupil or group of pupils in a public school may pray or engage in religious activities or religious expression before, during and after the school day in the same manner and to the same extent that pupils may engage in nonreligious activities or expression."

HB 4147 also covers jewelry and clothing of a religious nature as allowed, although "obscene, vulgar, offensively lewd, or indecent speech" is not allowed.

The bill provides broad parameters for graduation speeches. It does not limit "religion" to any specific faith expressions.

That being the case, "pastafarians" or "wiccans" expressing their beliefs would be acceptable, thereby giving rise to students thinking about faith and what theirs means to them.

A similiar bill was proposed in 2013, drawing comments from some that it did not give students rights that were not already established and protected under the U.S. Constitution.

The bill has been referred to Michigan's Committee on Education.