Religious Bill of Rights killed in committee

By Phil Plait | February 16, 2010 1:05 pm

I’m happy to say that the Colorado State Judiciary Committee has "indefinitely postponed" the Religious Bill of Rights for public schools.


They said, and I quote:

After consideration on the merits, the Committee recommends the following: SB10-089 be postponed indefinitely.

That is essentially their way of killing the motion. What’s interesting to me is this statement (emphasis mine):

FINAL VOTE – Moved a substitute motion to postpone Senate Bill 10-089 indefinitely. The motion passed on a 4-3 roll call vote.

Curious, I looked up the parties of the committee members. Can you guess who voted how? Yup. The Democrats all voted to kill the bill, and the Republicans all voted not to kill it. Shocker, given this was clearly an attempt by the far-right religious groups to once again wedge their foot in the door, trying to make the government a theocracy.

They lost this time, but by a narrow margin. Had this gone to the floor — and extrapolating from the fact that this was voted on strict party lines in the committee — the bill would have lost anyway, since the party ratio is 21 to 14 Democrat to Republican. Still and all in this country, as we’ve learned we’re always one election away from change.

I certainly hope that, in this case, change is something we don’t have to believe in.

Tip o’ the powdered wig to Rachael Acks.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Piece of mind, Politics, Religion

Comments (50)

Links to this Post

  1. horsegoeswest » Blog Archive » Partisan politics | February 16, 2010
  1. Daffy

    I’d like to take pleasure in this, but with a 4-3 vote—and the fact that this stuff NEVER stops—I am depressed and sad for my country.

  2. Liza

    It does feel too close to really celebrate – glad it happened this time, but what about the next time?

  3. From a Brit looking on, this is concerning. Could the religious right actually create a theocracy within America, I hope not.

  4. Mike Wagner

    The fact that 3 people voted for it makes me sick to my stomach.

  5. Steve

    Richard, no, they couldn’t. Any time that some state legislature gets ahead of itself and actually passes a law like this, it’s fought by the rational and struck down.

    Luckily, our Constitution expressly forbids a theocracy and last time I checked, you have to have a very large majority of states agreeing in order to amend anything in there.

    Even if only 40% of us believe in Evolution, that’s still enough to prevent something crazy from happening.

  6. Tony

    If you want to look at it optimistically, it’s possible that at least some of the 3 votes to keep the bill moving along could have been people who wanted to see a definitive vote against the bill by all of the legislature.

    Oh, who am I kidding? The American Taliban doesn’t see themselves as the Taliban.

  7. Robert E

    Don’t be so positive. All it takes (and they know this) is a few more areas, like the Texas Board of Education, falling under their control and they could shift things farther than you think.

  8. Katharine

    Part of me hopes, if the United States ever becomes a theocracy, that the rest of the world will do us sane people a favor and kill it dead.

  9. Gus Snarp

    The optimistic view is that at least some of those three voted for it only because they knew it would lose and they could make some hay with religious voters on an issue no one else really knew about without actually making a bad law.

    Very optimistic.

  10. Jules Goldstein

    “They lost this time, but by a narrow margin. Had this gone to the floor — and extrapolating from the fact that this was voted on strict party lines in the committee — the bill would have lost anyway, since the party ratio is 21 to 14 Democrat to Republican. Still and all in this country, as we’ve learned we’re always one election away from change.”
    If it had passed this time, it would have meant that there was a republican majority on the committee.
    If there was a republican majority on the committee, it would have meant that there was a republican majority in that house of the legislature.
    If there was a republican majority in that house of the legislature, it would have passed there.
    The extrapolation does not work.

  11. Katharine

    In other news, Joe Wilson is openly not sorry for his outburst in Congress.

    Republicans are such uncivilized backwater goobs. (Before you get all ‘wharrgarbl classist!’ on me, I should note that in America it is entirely possible to change one’s economic class. Both my parents clawed up the ladder and are first-generation college graduates, and I am going toward becoming my family’s first PhD. And whether it’s ‘classist’ or not, I have no pity for people who are too stupid to think with a reasonable amount of nuance, regardless of whether they can help it or not.)

  12. Scott B

    Good news. Sadly, those Dems can look forward to being accused of being anti-religion when they come up for reelection now.

  13. Fishy

    @ Katherine

    Neither of my parents have a college education, I have a PhD. Sadly, I have barely moved in the economic class. They were probably lower middle, and right now I am mid-middle at best. It’s sad, but a 100k salary doesn’t move you as far as you might imagine.

    What has drastically improved from my parents to myself, is the ability to manage money and use it wisely, which I somewhat contribute to my higher education. I also have less desire for high dollar items. Still, the people making the most money will have have PhD’s working for them.

  14. Mike

    Politics: Just tow the party line. Blue and red. Black and white. Wave your flag with a rah rah rah. Go team go.


    Glad it was defeated nevertheless.. but what if things were just a little different? It’s frustrating. Something like this shouldn’t even be considered by any but the most hard-lined and staunch religionist. Are all the republicans on that committee so extreme? Have they not minds of their own? Sigh.

  15. Daffy

    Steve, with all due respect, all it would take is a war. Bush—whatever your feelings about him overall— was able to severely shred the Bill of Rights with hardly a peep of protest from anyone. This country is only one large terrorist blast away from Christian theocracy.

  16. Lawrence

    I’m sure the Republicans knew this would fail & by showing a combined front, they can make it an election issue down the line. It is easy to “make hay” with voters, when you know something is going to fail – it is a win/win situation for them.

    Just like the Repubs have done in Congress – if the Dems have enough votes to pass something on their own, let them do it. It doesn’t cost the Republicans anything to vote against it en masse – and puts the full accountability on the other side.

    It is a real shame that this is what we’ve come to, as a nation. Keep voting no until you get into power, then get ticked off when the other side does it to – yeah, just the way to get things done (sheeesh).

  17. DataJack

    Wow. Excellent. It almost seems like 2010 is going to be the “Year of Reason”. We have had more rational wins this year then any I can remember. Homeopathy discredited, Anti-Vax paper retracted, Church/State separation adhered to. What’s next?

  18. I’m sure the zombie corpse of this bill will rear its ugly head again. But for now, good riddance.

  19. ScottW

    I thought that by moving to Colorado from Georgia, I had escaped this sort of nonsense.


  20. Chris

    Please, lets rein in the silly “theocracy” claims–I say this as an atheist, but we’re not even as close to being a theocracy as, say Great Britain is–remember their established church?

    The country’s no more in danger of becoming a theocracy than it is of becoming socialist. The US constitution remains quite unchanged on this point.

    Silly bills demanding we teach evolution (or change the value of pi) are a fact of our democratic life, and we’ll face them down again & again as scientists. They aren’t the end of the world, and they’ve nothing to do with Bush.

    Tackle these things on their lack of merit!

  21. That is good news. I’m sure they will try again, but I’m happy they did not make it.

  22. Beelzebud

    And people wonder why skeptical thinkers tend to be liberals, and/or left leaning by a wide margin.

    Until the conservative movement reigns in their theocratic element, and stops being a roadblock to science and education, they should expect no support among the educated.

  23. @Scott B (#11) That sort of thing was already being done in the last election. I’m unaffiliated with any party, so I got everyone’s political adds. The Republican ones involved a lot of mailings from Focus on the Family (*GAG*) that implied the state of Colorado and the country were about to become godless cesspits. What still sticks out in my mind – yes, I never get tired of telling this story, I already e-mailed it at Phil – was one of the ads attacking Evie Hudak, who was one of the yes votes on squashing this bill. Anyway, the attack ad boiled down to “Evie Hudak wants pedophiles to rape your children in public bathrooms because she supported a bill that lets transgendered people use the restroom of the gender they identify with.”

    I’m expecting that level of lying vitriol all over again.

  24. @Chris (#19),

    Well said. Although, it won’t stop the extreeme religious right from trying their darndest. Look at the Texas Board of Education and their re-write of American History. Tackling the Constitution won’t be a big deal to them I’m sure.

    Although, I am always amused when I point out that the Bill of Rights directly violates the Ten Commandments. 😉 oops!

    P.S. I prefer the Constitution any day by the way!

  25. @#10 Katherine: “Republicans are such uncivilized backwater goobs. ” Hey now, no need for name calling now… yes, this was a stupid law, and I am glad it got knocked down. Unfortunately, we have to deal with the religious right part of the conservative movment, just as the left has to deal with the morons on their side. But there is no need to sling ALL Republicans into the group…

  26. Itzac

    I’m heartened by the fact they were willing to kill a bill with such a patriotic and/or harmless sounding name. After all, who wouldn’t be for religious freedom?

    @Jason, maybe traditional republicans need to distance themselves from the religious right. Gods know congress could do with another party or two.

  27. This whole debate puts me in mind of Obama’s efforts to promote bipartisanship in Congress. I admire what he’s attempting to do, but I can’t help thinking he’s going to get rolled every time. We’re at the point now where we need less making nice and more pit bulls like Howard Dean and Alan Grayson.

    We keep seeing votes like these along party lines on issues of fact. The wall of separation is already pockmarked and shot full of holes. Appeasement will not strengthen that wall.

  28. Astrofiend

    19. Chris Says:
    February 16th, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    “Please, lets rein in the silly “theocracy” claims–I say this as an atheist, but we’re not even as close to being a theocracy as, say Great Britain is–remember their established church?”

    Possibly, but there is a big ‘BUT’ in there – Britain may have an established church and technically be closer to a theocracy that the US. BUT the subscription rate to fundamentalist beliefs is far below that of the US and far less of the general population I would think would be ‘actually’ religious, in so far as they go to church on weekends etc. They are also far less hell-bent on converting the masses, and less inclined to force their point of view on others – religion is viewed far more as an individuals’ choice over there, rather than something that the entire countries rule of law should be tailored around. The church also tends to keep out of the way a bit – they do not hold politicians with an iron grip over there, as they seem to hold the republicans in the States. So while it may be easier for the Brits to become a technical theocracy, there is a lot more fundamentalist vigor in the evangelicals over in the US.

    Anyway, I simply can’t get my head around it all – 60% of Americans accept the fundamentalist ‘take’ on things? I would be supremely surprised if even 1% of Australians were that way inclined, and if they are, they damn well keep their heads down because they get openly laughed at and taunted for holding such ridiculous points of view. So everything is as it should be really.

  29. #28 Astrofiend:
    Correct. While the UK does still have an “official” state religion, it has nothing remotely like the political influence that the “Christian Taliban” have in the US. Individual freedom to follow whatever religion you choose, or not to, is generally respected here.
    And as you rightly say, the subscription rate to fundamentalist and extremist beliefs is FAR, FAR lower than in the US. Even mainstream Christians – at least practicing ones – are now a minority, and the proportion of people who are actually regular churchgoers is a mere 2%, as opposed to 40% or more in the US. The huge difference is that, thankfully, being an atheist is no longer considered a stigma here; as I understand it, there are substantial numbers of “churchgoers” in some parts of the US, who don’t actually believe a word of it, but go through the motions, simply because it would be social – and for some, even career – suicide to admit to being an atheist. Thankfully, we have long outgrown that kind of stupidity!
    Of course, we do still have our share of fundamentalists and nutjobs – but they are far too few in number to be taken seriously, and the few of them who try to force their beliefs down the throats of passers-by in public places, are invariably ignored or laughed at. ( I’ve seen a couple, who were especially loud and intrusive, told by the police to shut up and go home. )
    While Biblical literalists and Young Earth Creationists make up some frightening proportion of the US population; here, I doubt if they number even 0.1%. I’ve been personally acquainted with three of them in my lifetime.

  30. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ 24. Larian LeQuella Says:

    … Although, I am always amused when I point out that the Bill of Rights directly violates the Ten Commandments. oops! …

    Er, how exactly?

    Not disagreeing with you just curious & didn’t realise that.

    Good news but not unexpected here – isn’t this what many said or thought would happen to begin with? Besides as I understand it (& I could be wrong) this “act” would’ve had no additional effect (beyond wasting time & paper) since all its claims were already covered under freedom of expression / freedom of relgion laws anyhow and thus redundant.

  31. t-storm

    question, how is name calling by one side better than name calling by another side? i have a hard time siding with some of you because you lump people with certain views into one big idealogical (idea-illogical maybes) basket. it makes you sound petty and it affects your credibility.

    and for the record i’m fairly socially liberal, financially conservative, an aerospace engineer, a former catholic, and i’ve never voted for a winning president.

  32. @ Zero Boss:

    I’m sure the zombie corpse of this bill will rear its ugly head again.

    Uh, I think you have to wait about three days for that to happen, if I remember my Sunday school correctly.


    @ Chris:

    The U.S. constitution is only as strong as the people sworn to defend it. Recall: “It’s just a piece of paper.”

  33. Indeed it will most likely rear its ugly head again, but the timeline is more like three years. It was last visited upon us in 2007.

    Last year the bill’s author gained some notoriety for suggesting that pregnant women shouldn’t be tested for HIV because having a baby with AIDS is God’s punishment for promiscuity (which I’d argue is a wholly un-Christian belief).

  34. TheBlackCat

    Besides as I understand it (& I could be wrong) this “act” would’ve had no additional effect (beyond wasting time & paper) since all its claims were already covered under freedom of expression / freedom of relgion laws anyhow and thus redundant.

    You are wrong. Please see the discussion a couple of days ago on this. There were several things in there that, if they had the force of law, would go way beyond the protections in the 1st amendment, including at least one that directly goes against rulings by the supreme court on the issue and another that would allow teachers to simply not do their job and allow students to not learn the material (as long as they had religious beliefs that those in power considered legitimate).

  35. Jim

    Cool it on the mud slinging, lefties. Yes, be proud that your party stood up for reason and voted down this ridiculous bit of sham legislation. But the anti-conservative/anti-Republican diatribes don’t get us anywhere. There are more than a few Republicans who are atheists and agnostics, like myself, and even more who may be believers but are still willing to stand up for separation of Church and state. Admittedly many of the politicians who represent us won’t, and this is a problem I think the party can correct eventually as the country becomes (I hope) increasingly atheist and secular. But don’t punish the moderate conservative and libertarian Republicans (i.e. me) for the sins of the fundamentalists. I have the greatest respect for my fellow skeptics no matter what political preferences they might hold, even you godless liberals! I would never, for example, hold it against you that the new age whackjobs happened to hold similar political views. And Phil you’re my hero, but just remember that the skeptical movement is supposed to be a big tent, and the issues we feel strongly about aren’t supposed to be colored with left-right politicization. Of course I’m sure I don’t have to remind you of that because you were the president of the JREF, you dealt with people on all sides, and you did a pretty damn good job of keeping everyone focused on the real issues. I guess all I really want to say is that I’d hate for any potential skeptic to feel unwelcome just because of his political leanings.

  36. If this country ever becomes a theocracy, I will fight, and I will die, to bring this country back to what it is now. I will not allow the country I have lived in for ten years to fall apart. Although I have no unending love for this country, no person deserves to live under a theocracy.

    I am disappointed that the Republicans votes yes on this bill, because, as Jim said, there are Republicans that would willingly vote this down.

  37. DennyMo

    “Republicans are such uncivilized backwater goobs.”

    Thanks for the brilliant insight and really useful contribution to the discussion. I might as well say “Democrats are such granolas and druggies.”, for all the value and accuracy it would add to the debate.

  38. Travis D

    60% of Americans are not Young Earth Creationists. Polls that would show it as so are very flawed.

  39. uudale

    @ Katherine:

    “Part of me hopes, if the United States ever becomes a theocracy, that the rest of the world will do us sane people a favor and kill it dead.”

    Really. And just what would be your reaction if the US went into Iran and tried to do the same?

  40. t-storm


    I mean that like you just owned her, not like i want Iran to burn. That whole sarcasm/internet thing.

    @Jim #36
    Your ideas intrigue me. I’d like to subscribe to your newsletter.

  41. Daffy

    Jim, I am all for reducing mullsinging. However, let’s not forget the mud slinging that occurs CONSTANTLY from Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, etc. You know, the ones who routinely call liberals “traitors.” And even have called for their execution.

    If you are calling for better manners from everyone I am there with you. If you are—like many Republicans—ONLY demanding good behavior from your opponents, then don’t waste my time. You know, the ones who use terms like “new age whackjobs .”

  42. JJ

    It’s the close mindedness of people on both the extreme left and right that will cause the downfall of America. At this point, it’s either theocracy or socialism. It’s like asking paper or plastic. What happened to the fundamental ideas of limited government, personal responsibility, and individual rights? Both sides seem to have forgotten about the Constitution. It’s these Conservative Christian Republicans that give the party a bad name.

    Good post Jim, I share your sentiments, I’m a Libertarian Republican as well.

  43. Jim

    Daffy, your point is well taken and trust me it is troubling to feel like I need to answer for the ideas and opinions of the extremists on the right. And in retrospect, I probably shouldn’t tell anyone how they’re allowed to voice their opinions, just that it might be most beneficial for everyone to cut through the ad hom stuff and stick to debating the issues. Not that I’m necessarily against ad hominems when they’re used for humorous or rhetorical purposes. I’d just prefer that the facts not be forgotten, and the fact that not all Republicans support this kind of thing seems to have been left out of the picture here.

    And to all my fellow secular/non-believing Republicans/libertarians/independents, thanks for the responses and the show of solidarity. Sometimes it feels like a lonely road being an atheist who’s not a liberal, or a Republican who’s not a believer, so it’s good to be reminded that I’m not totally alone every once in a while.

  44. Daffy

    Well, Jim, we are in agreement then. The decline of American politics into rude bumper sticker slogans is one of the more depressing developments in my life time.

    The trouble is, people want easy answers…and there aren’t any.

    Btw, I am a raging liberal (registered independent) who is a staunch supporter of the police and fiscal responsibility; one who lives in a very tight Republican stronghold. You aren’t the only one who is lonely.

  45. @ Daffy & Jim:

    Awwwww… Bad Astronomy bringing together the lonely people of the world! 😛

    But I’ve got you both beat! Imagine being a fiscally conservative, buy-American, mixed-race, atheist, Great Society loving, flaming homosexual liberal libertarian. Whose tent do I get to enter? (Whichever, it better have some decent decor inside.)

  46. Pi-needles

    @ ^ kuhnigget :

    Well youre welcome in mine or sleeping out under the stars in a swag but with all those tags, I suggest you find yourself a real big house or even skyscraper to share with us all. 😉

  47. Daffy


    I guess you win, but only barely. Did I mention I am also (horrors!!!) a musician?!?!? Every mother’s greatest fear for her daughter…to marry one of those!!!! Fortunately, my wife is also a musician, and so was her late mother, so it’s OK. :-)

  48. A musician???!!!!

    See, mom, at least I wasn’t one of those!


  49. Robert Carnegie

    Apparently Rush Limbaugh around April ’09 is indirectly responsible for the #1 article found by me Googling {“bill of rights} {ten commandments} – – which finds that most of each is nothing to do with the other, but commandments 1-4 constitute establishment of religion. I suppose before the twentieth century that didn’t mean you couldn’t enforce people being Christian, but they were free under the law to choose WHAT kind of Christian to be – Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish etc. It was also not a good time to be Irish.


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