Your State Sucks: Tennessee Sucks Because Its Lawmakers Will Make Sure Jesus Gets into the Classroom

The Rude Pundit has taught students in fine Christian areas of the nation, places where the citizens walk around with a tightly-inserted vibrating Jesus butt plug so they can feel the Lord's love convulsing their bodies all day long. He so often had Jesus shoved in his face by students that he created a rule: You cannot argue by using any religion's standard text as a fact that proves or disproves something. "Why?" they would ask. "Don't you care about our faith?"

The answer was always the same: "If you say the Bible proves the earth was pooped out by God in seven days, then I can say I believe the creation myth of some Native American religion and then who is right? You'll say you are, I'll say I am, so, no, sorry, no books of faith. No Bible, no Quran, no Tibetan Book of the Dead, nothing." (And, let's be honest: we can try to be all-inclusive here, but this professor has never had a Muslim or Jewish or Hindu student attempt to shoehorn his or her faith into a secular classroom situation. It's always been Christians.) The Rude Pundit told them that if they wanted to, they could use a quote or parable as introductory material, or acknowledge that what they took from the Bible is not fact.

Inevitably, some evangelical student would do something stupid. Like the time the Rude Pundit was leading the students in a creative exercise where he had them lay on their backs and picture themselves flying to various places. One male class member wrote that he would not give in to this demonic out-of-body projection and that he spent his time praying for the souls of the students and the Rude Pundit. It was not a joke. On the bottom of the page, the Rude Pundit wrote, "Did you ever hear of 'using your imagination'?"

And then sometimes a student would just look at his computer screen, say, "Fuck it," and then write a paper where, say, a text by a gay writer would be condemned because the Bible says queers are icky. There was even a graduate student who did that. The Rude Pundit failed the paper, which, if you know anything about grad schools, is a huge deal. He offered the student the chance to revise, even to use Christianity as a way to theorize about the text. The student thought about it and decided that he would rather say the text was sinful because Jesus and take the "F." His parent must have been so proud; no doubt, the Rude Pundit is thought to this day as someone who was oppressing their brave child.

Now, this was all at colleges, but some of this took place in Tennessee, and the legislature there, by overwhelming, veto-proof margins, just passed the Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act. It applies to all the public K-12 schools in the state, all the Local Education Agencies (LEAs). The bill allows students to express their religion at school with no fear of being silenced or punished. Teachers and schools "may not discriminate against the student based on a religious viewpoint expressed by the student on an otherwise permissible subject."

And what kind of expression? Why, little John and Jenny the Baptists can fondle themselves and ejaculate their religious beliefs all over anything. They can witness for Jehovah at assemblies or at graduation. They can form school groups that worship Satan and have their meetings in the hell that is the cafeteria. Oh, and they can do it in their homework: "A student may express the student's beliefs about religion in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of the student's submission. Homework and classroom work shall be judged by ordinary academic standards of substance and relevance and against other legitimate pedagogical concerns identified by the school. Students may not be penalized or rewarded on account of religious content. If a teacher’s assignment involves writing a poem, the work of a student who submits a poem in the form of a prayer (for example, a psalm) should be judged on the basis of academic standards, including literary quality, and not be penalized or rewarded on account of its religious content."

Imagine being a high school teacher in Tennessee. Let's say in, oh, hell, Cookeville, nestled in there between Knoxville and Nashville. You already have to teach your class so that students can do well on the TCAP, the goddamned standardized tests that are shoved down your throat like having to suck hot demon cock every year. Now, in the middle of the year, one of your students, that asshole junior who started the morning prayer circle and is so fucking proud of himself for it, gets up in class to give a presentation on how James Baldwin is burning in hell because he was gay, and the only criteria you can use to grade the fucker is whether or not the presentation was a quality expression of hate in the name of his Lord.

And you can bank on it: Students will use their faith to enact their prejudice against others. LGBT students would just have to sit there and take it when the always skirt-wearing Susie gets up to talk about how they are abominations. Oh, sure, we can say that a particularly brave Muslim might praise Allah, but, c'mon, it's fuckin' Tennessee. It's gonna be Christians. It's always Christians. Otherwise, this bill wouldn't have even been drafted.

Well-done, Tennessee legislators. As always, you've manipulated the notion of freedom to mean, "Free to fuck up your world."

Oh, and like the good Christians they are, the Senate is about to vote on a bill to allow the use of the electric chair in executions if the drugs for putting people to sleep are unavailable. Just like Jesus would want.

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