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Measures back religion in school

Montgomery Advertiser, USA
Mar. 11, 2004
Jannell McGrew • Saturday March 13, 2004

Alabama students could hear a lot about God in their classrooms if legislation involving various religious issues becomes law.

Legislative proposals moved almost effortlessly through various committees Wednesday.

While members of the Senate Education Committee voted 7-0 for legislation that would protect science teachers and their students when discussing alternatives to evolution, members of the House Education Committee unanimously approved a bill that would allow an 11-by-14-inch “In God We Trust” plaque to be displayed in every public school classroom, auditorium and cafeteria across that state.

Supporters of the measures were elated.

“The evolution bill, which we whole-heartedly support, gives a statutory license to teachers to teach alternatives to evolution — including creation — which serves as a legal safety net to preclude frivolous lawsuits from groups like the ACLU,” said John Giles, president of the Christian Coalition of Alabama.

Rep. Jimmy Martin, D-Clanton, held his large “In God We Trust” plaque in front of House committee members Wednesday and told them that while his bill would allow for the display of the national motto, no state funds would be used in the process.

Without debate, members gave the bill a favorable report.

“It’s just a display to the children that we have in our state, allowing them to know that we do trust in God,” Martin said after Wednesday’s afternoon vote. “I hope it doesn’t start a big ruckus and everything, but if it does, I still trust in God and in the United States of America.”

Martin’s bill would direct principals and teachers in public elementary and secondary schools to display the plaque in each classroom, school auditorium and cafeteria.

“That is something that all of us throughout our community and state need to be aware of at all times — where we place our trust,” said Rep. Jim McClendon, R-Springville, who voted for the measure.

Opponents of the religion-oriented bills were outraged by the votes Wednesday.

“I’m not really shocked that Alabama lawmakers would pull such a stunt like that, but I was hoping that they would have learned a lesson from the Roy Moore debacle,” said Larry Darby, president of the Atheist Law Center in Montgomery.

“They are trying to push it too far now, and there will definitely be some legal challenges to this if it becomes law,” he said.

Moore, former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, was removed from office in November for defying a federal court order to remove his 5,280-pound Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama Judicial Building.

Martin is unfazed by threats of lawsuits.

“It’s like the Ten Commandments monument. If the atheists and agnostics want to fight this, it is on their heart,” he said. “I trust in God.”

In other committee action Wednesday, a House committee approved a bill that would make the queen honey bee the official state insect and the blackberry the official state fruit.

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