I’m sorry, Ms. Jackson, but are you for real?

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Not content to let House Republicans monopolize unconstitutional legislation, Louisiana State Representative Katrina Jackson (D-Monroe) recently filed HB 660, which she’d like to be known as “The Parental Choice Historical Prayer and Pledge Act.”

If passed, Jackson’s bill would allow and encourage public schools to begin each school day with the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. In fact, it’d mandate BESE to establish a Lord’s Prayer policy. Quoting:

A. The State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, or “state board”, shall establish a policy and develop procedures to allow public school students to participate in the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer and the “Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag” at the commencement of each school day. Such policy and procedures shall include but not be limited to provisions for the following:

(1) Student participation in the recitation of the prayer and pledge shall be voluntary.

(2) Students shall be reminded that the Lord’s Prayer is the prayer that the pilgrim fathers recited when they came to America in search for freedom.

(3) Students shall be informed that these exercises are not meant to influence an individual’s personal religious beliefs in any manner.

(4) The recitations shall be conducted so that students learn of America’s great freedoms, including the freedom of religion symbolized by the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer.

B. The state board shall develop a program of instruction for public schools with regard to the pilgrim fathers.

Let’s get a few things out of the way. As beautiful and meaningful as the Lord’s Prayer may be to millions of Christians all over the world, the suggestion that its recitation symbolizes “freedom of religion” is a gross distortion and manipulation of American history; it’s shameless. The recitation of Lord’s Prayer is definitively, self-evidently a religious ritual, and while the pilgrims from the Mayflower may be an important part of early colonial American history, the United States of America wasn’t founded by “pilgrim fathers.” Apparently, Representative Jackson not only doesn’t understand the Constitution, she also never properly learned American history. But, to her, I suppose, that’s no problem; she can just ensure the state rewrites history: “The state board shall develop a program of instruction for public schools with regard to the pilgrim fathers.”

Fundamentally, the bill is defiantly unconstitutional. If passed, it’d violate more than 50 years of established United States Supreme Court precedent. That’s worth emphasizing: Fifty years. Usually, when a lawmaker is forced to defend of explain this type of blatantly unconstitutional legislation, they wax philosophical about the destructive forces of secularization in America. “School prayer is under attack,” they say. And so, they introduce legislation like this, because, they say, they’re compelled to act with fierce urgency. At least that’s the typical excuse, but I wouldn’t presume to understand what, if anything, Representative Jackson is thinking.

But I do know this. She didn’t write this bill. This is not her original work, not even her original idea. She filed it on someone else’s behalf, and more than likely, there’s campaign money involved here. Indeed, there’s an almost identically-worded bill being considered right now in Indiana, which was itself modeled after a bill from Kentucky. She’s clearly doing someone else’s bidding, though I doubt she’d see it that way. Quoting from her campaign biography:

Ms. Jackson attributes her accomplishments to not just having a dream, but having a dream that lines up with God’s plan for her life.  She believes her footsteps are ordered by God and everyday Ms. Jackson works to allow God to guide her in the process of realizing her dream. Her family worships at Riverside Missionary Baptist Church in Monroe, LA.

There’s really nothing quite like a politician who claims their “footsteps are ordered by God.” It’s the ultimate defense against bad government and stupid policies. Incidentally, it’s the same logic the pilgrims used when they landed on Plymouth Rock. Quoting from the U.S. Department of Defense (bold mine):

In December, a scouting party went ashore, and tradition says they first set foot upon the stone known today as “Plymouth Rock.” This may or may not be true, but the rock is so large that they probably at least used it as a landmark when rowing ashore.

The men in this first group ashore feared a possible confrontation with unfriendly Indians, but soon they discovered the local Indians were all dead of smallpox. They took this as divine providence and assumed God had cleared their way by killing off the natives.

39 thoughts

  1. I am glad that you wrote this article and enjoy spirited debate of all issues by constituents. I would have loved a call from you regarding this issue because then you would have had additional information and asked me directl questions instead of presuming my reasons for filing and given it to your readers. No one asked me to file this bill I was actually reading a statute from another state that was passed in 1992 and reshaped that legislation at my own thought and without a request. One thing that may be interesting to readers is that it also requires the pleadge of allegiance and each school may choose and mot required to put it for a vote of the district and it requires 2/3s of their district (the same vote to pass a constitutional amemdment related to that district) to vote in favor of it before it came be implemented.

    This post is not intended to persuade any constituent but to give them first hand imformation. Thanks for the article!!!!

    Rep. Katrina R. Jackson

    1. Ms. Jackson—

      With all due respect, while I appreciate your willingness to discuss this, I have very little patience for facially unconstitutional and stunningly stupid legislation. This issue was resolved by the United States Supreme Court fifty years ago. In fact, forty years ago, the Supreme Court of New Hampshire examined an almost identical bill; it was laughed out of court. Kentucky tried to pull off the same stunt, and it was rejected.

      I stand by what I wrote: You didn’t write this legislation; this is not your original idea. You, essentially, copied and pasted it. And it seems awfully coincidental to me that three Republican lawmakers in Indiana filed, basically, the same exact bill only three months ago, a bill that made national headlines and has been ridiculed and criticized by a number of prominent legal scholars. But even if we were to give you the benefit of the doubt and believe that you just happened to read a 21-year-old “statute” passed in another state– that you had no idea that the same bill was making headlines in Indiana, there’s a glaring problem: No such “1992” statute exists. To be sure, statutes often stay on the books, even decades after they’ve been held unconstitutional. For example, despite the fact that the US Supreme Court held the Louisiana Balanced Treatment Act for Creation Science and Evolution to be unconstitutional, it’s still on the books, as a relic, not as a law.

      I implore you to spare the good people of Louisiana and to immediately withdraw this bill from consideration. Louisiana is a poor state. You represent a district that suffers from poverty, poor education, and poor health. I beg you: Please, don’t waste your time kowtowing to the theocrats. There’s absolutely nothing that prohibits anyone in Louisiana from practicing their religion. If a student wants to pray, they can pray. But the government can’t pass laws that establish religion, even “voluntary” religion. You are inventing a controversy, and for what purpose? Why? Forgive me, but it needs to be said: You are wasting your time; you’re wasting our time, and you’re wasting the opportunity to effectuate meaningful, positive changes in the law.

      On a final note, your 2/3rds vote argument is ridiculous. In the United States, we must strive to ensure that the rights of minorities are not curtailed by the whims of the majority. If your bill is passed into law, how would you propose dealing with Hindu or Buddhist or atheist or Muslim students? How do you ensure they can “opt out” of your prayer? Make them walk out of the classroom? Ask them to cover their ears? America is a great country largely because it strives to be inclusive and celebrates its own diversity; our institutions, including our public schools, aren’t owned by any particular religion. You may think you’re championing something virtuous, but to the children who don’t share your religion, your bill is bullying and coercive and insensitive.

      Surely, you have better things to do with your time in the legislature.

    2. Here’s some constructive criticism, since you’re probably a reasonable person. I live in East Jefferson Parish, so whatever you choose to do doesn’t affect me one way or the other, nor do I ever plan to run for office, but feel free to hear me out anyway.

      1) If this bill passes, you are likely (99.9%+ chance) to LOSE in Court if this becomes an issue (and it will). Or to use your bible inspirational logic,”lord give me the courage to fight where I can win, the humility to not fight when I can’t and the wisdom to know the difference”. It doesn’t matter if the secular people are wrong and if you are right, IN COURT you will lose and thats all that matters. You can feel any way you want about the Lords Prayer, but you should probably learn to pick your battles a little more wisely.

      2) Win or lose, this is going to cost your district lots of money. Money that could have been spend on government programs that help your needy constiutants. Not only is it supposed to be your religious duty to help it, its your job to help them as a civil servant. Or as Sean Payton would put it: DO YOUR JOB!

      Whatever its its worth, your mild bible pushing aside, you’re still better than some of the clowns in my jurisdiction (I am looking at your Arron Brousard). Don’t let your good intentions screw over your contituants.

  2. I am not the Least Surprise when their is an Attack AGNIST those who Stand up Boldly to defend a Parent’s Right to allow their Child/Children to recite the Lords Prayer (voluntarily) to began their School Day.With all the Violents and killing in our Schools we should be excited and applaud the Fact that Represenative Katrina Jackson has Filed Such a Bill.I think its a Sad day when a Person Openly Oppose RIGHTEOUSNESS and insult and question the intelligents and intent of one of the Brightest Legal Mind in the State of Louisanne or In America. I’m offended that it seem that the Suggestion that an AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMAN Can not or does not have the ability to THINK on her on own and that she can do what the Citizens in her District elected her to do.Also this Woman is Repected by her fellow members of the LEGISLATIVE BLACK CAUCUS who elected her as their Leader is FAR from the TRUTH that has to have some to Think for her.Thank you Represenative Katrina R.Jackson!! For STANDING for what you believe is RIGHT. WE NEED YOUR LEADERSHIP FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS!!! THE PEOPLE OF DISTRICT 16 ARE BLESSED TO HAVE YOU REPRESENTING THEM.

    1. “Bishop Williams is anointed and flows in the gifts of the Spirit with signs and wonders, and miracles confirming the Word of God.”


      I have a degree in Religious Studies. But if I ever claim to “flow in… miracles” on my official biography while publicly butchering the English language and engaging in shameless, insipid race-baiting, I’d hope that my friends and family would tell me to seek professional help.

      With all due respect, Bishop Williams, you do not come across a selfless, “anointed,” and scholarly man of God. You seem petty and confused and bumbling and- yeah- just a little racist (which is sad). But I wish you the best. My argument about Katrina’s legislation had nothing to with her race; you made it about her race, and that, to me, is sad. I think, one day, you will regret what you wrote about me. But it is OK, either way. God Bless you.

  3. As written, this is bad policy and unconstitutional (http://www.civilrights.org/monitor/vol11_no4/art2p1.html). Introducing students to historical elements of the Pilgrims is fine within the context of a developed History curriculum or Civics class (and very good arguments have been made proposing teaching *about* religion given its impact on American history (see Stephen Prothero’s book “Religious Literacy”, for instance)), provided that it isn’t limited to one particular type of religion – the Founding Fathers had a lot of difficulty with the Establishment clause (e.g., what constitutes a religion, and how should “religion” be understood in light of the Free Exercise clause), and modern Constitutional scholars note that teaching about religion *requires* pluralism. Further, the “religious freedom” argument is much more complex than presented in the bill, and the actual history of “religious freedom” also involved a lot of religious persecution within the colonies, so it would be important to teach history accurately. Reciting the Lord’s Prayer 180 times over the course of an academic year is not educational – it is requiring participation (even silent participation) in an element of religious liturgy, and it constitutes a captive audience. There is no justification for the religious elements of the proposed legislation that withstands more than a few minutes of basic research.

  4. As an addendum – a concise list of resources on the Establishment of Religion can be found here: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/cases/topics/tog_establishment_of_religion.html. Most relevant to the topic at hand is School District of Abington Township, Pennsylvania v. Schempp [374 U.S. 203 (1963)], which states “Because of the prohibition of the First Amendment against the enactment by Congress of any law “respecting an establishment of religion,” which is made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment, no state law or school board may require that passages from the Bible be read or that the Lord’s Prayer be recited in the public schools of a State at the beginning of each school day — even if individual students may be excused from attending or participating in such exercises upon written request of their parents.” (http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0374_0203_ZS.html)

    1. Statute which would encourage and authorize daily recital of Lord’s Prayer in public schools would violate First Amendment. Opinion of the Justices (1973) 113 N.H. 297, 307 A.2d 558.

  5. Bishop, no one said a single thing about African American women cannot think on their own. But I see that you will use any card you can just to try to get your way and to put down people who disagree with you. Well played, sir, well played.

    1. Black or white, this bill is hogwash, Christian or non Christian, it’s hogwash and frankly I expect more from her. I’ve followed her via FB since last spring and found her to be a reasonable woman. This bill stuns me. I , frankly, do not understand the motivation, or the need. If I still had kids in public school and this past, I would be filing a law suite. And this is from a former Christians minister’s wife. I believe strongly the two have to separated. And of course I believe our US constitution already ensures that separation. Why , oh why must we endear another round of Christians wanting things ONLY their way? Why? bishop, tell me that,Why??

  6. Forgive them, for they know not what they do.
    I commend you Representative Katrina R. Jackson for speaking your truth! If only they understood the power of prayer. We must understand that is their ignorance that drives their responses.

    1. For crying out loud, this isn’t about legalizing prayer. Prayer is and always has been a fundamental right. This is about coercing small children into participating in a religious exercise in a public school. That’s illegal.

      1. Yeah, I will forgive you, for not taking the time to understand the fundementals of our constitution. And oh BTW I do know personally the power of prayer, You are preaching to the choir with that statement. Please take time to recognize that there is value in other’s lives and to expect other’s who do not believe like you will not be coerced into saying a prayer they may not believe in. This is about freedom, from being coerced into reciting a prayer that the kids parents may not believe in. Yeah, I’ll be praying…. that this comes to an abrupt stop by this bill being pulled from the session for consideration. Let’s hear it for the power of prayer! 🙂

  7. What this comes down to is an appeal to the ignorance of some Christian voters about the Constitution and the Establishment Clause regarding religion. No Christian in Monroe, Louisiana or in America is being oppressed or persecuted. They are just pissed that they have been called out on their previously privileged status and have been forced by the courts to play by the same rules as every other American citizen. We are all equal under the law and proclaiming a supernatural Christian worldview does not entitle you to special rights and privileges. Rep. Jackson seems to have conveniently forgotten or ignored how the Christian religion was used to justify slavery that took a bloody Civil War to resolve. The Christian religion is used to this day to justify the subjugation of women, the GLBT community, African-Americans, Freethinkers, as well as to undermine our civil liberties, the teaching of evidence-based science and history and to assuage it’s followers that they are morally superior to their fellow citizens who do not share their faith. The Constitution was a revolutionary founding document because it is godless, declaring that power comes from the People and our government was established by secular Enlightenment political principles. The Bill of Rights was added to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority. So on these civil rights matters you can’t decide by a 2/3 majority vote to violate the law. This is why we are not a democracy or as the Greeks presciently called it, a mobocracy. In a direct democracy there are no civil liberties as every law is subject to majority rule. Rep. Jackson’s proposed bill is unethical, un-American and unconstitutional. You think she would understand that in many communities across Louisiana that a 2/3 vote would strip her of her civil liberties and in our more conservative Parishes, vote to make members of her race slaves to the white majority. I am sick and tired of our willfully ignorant legislators wasting valuable time and tax-payer money pandering to the religious extremists who promote Christian Supremacy and Dominionism. How can these people serve in government where you swear to protect, defend and uphold the law and the Constitution and yet keep proposing bills that are in direct opposition to our godless Constitution and secular Republic? Religion divides, faith blinds and ignorance is praised while enlightenment and critical thinking is cursed as evil by these folks. Is it no wonder our country is becoming increasingly secular and organized religion is losing the battle for hearts and minds? The tragic irony is that Rep. Jackson and those who support such theocratic laws are hurting themselves in this process. They fail to see how our Separation Between Religion and the Government protects both from the interference of the other. If they tear down that wall they will realize too late that they thrived under its protection. When the government is allowed to decide religious practice they will weep, wail and gnash their teeth when they are in the minority and cry out for the protection of the Constitution. Hoisted by their own petard, if they were allowed to succeed with these bills, they should thank us and appreciate our defense of the Freedom of and from Religion. So to you Christian Supremacists… You’re Welcome.

  8. Cecilia, you sound very self righteous. People DO understand the power of prayer. What you don’t seem to understand is that, for prayer to be TRUE prayer, for prayer to work, it must be genuine and come from the heart. Forced prayer is not sincere prayer. So why do you all want fake, forced prayer? A child can pray to God anytime, anywhere. Even at school. Yes. Today, yesterday, and tomorrow, kids can pray at school. Do you have so little faith in what you have taught your children at home and at church that you think you’d better make sure they are FORCED to pray at school?

  9. Lamar, I absolutely love this article. As the Clerk for the Louisiana Democratic Party I do not support this bill, and I will be calling on the Democratic State Central Committee to express grave concerns about this bill. We are a party that supports the US Constitution, and this bill is in direct violation of that sacred document.

  10. May I make a suggestion to the good representative? How about you apply some of that Christian Honesty and not lying to the name of this bill? We rationalists will agree not to bitch and whine about it as long as you change its name to what it actually is:

    The “Screw You!” Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Wiccans and Atheists Bill 2013.


    The Christo-Fascist Bully Boy Facilitation Bill 2013

    Congrats representative – you just put your constituency and its residents on the map for all the wrong reasons. As an elected representative, a lawmaker, and a Democrat, you are a disgrace.

    An elected representative is there to represent ALL her constituents, not just the bible thumping ones.

    I sincerely hope you loose the next election you run in, and are replaced by someone with integrity, someone more honest, and someone who truly knows what their duties are…. someone also who has a better understanding of the history and Constitution of the USA.

  11. Lying in the name of Jesus. And people wonder why anyone doesn not believe in being a Christian. That’s why some people run away from religion, ’cause they look at these examples and go what is this s***t. She knows dang straigh the bill is about her own beliefs, but she’s gonna try to make the bill look like it’s about history or something. What a joke.

  12. Amd shame on you, reverend, for spelling like a kindergardner. You set a horrible example for our young ones to not value education. Shame on you for trying to act like someone disagrees with Ms. Jackson because she is African American. Congratulations on being a lying racist.

  13. So often when I read the comments of people the argument leaves away from the original argument and moves to one of racism and grammar lessons. We major in the minor at times.

    Grown ups acting like children. It’s a Shame. The issue is the important thing. Whether you believe in God or not is your business. You must answer for yourself.

    Our children are being thrown under the bus and no one cares. The people who are fighting over prayer being put in school are the same ones that ask for prayer when things go wrong in their life. Everyone needs to understand the importance of prayer. And question is this, what will it hurt if the children are allowed to pray in school?

    If you research you will agree that prayer is needed everywhere. So If not the lord’s prayer, then why not a general prayer for the start of a day. Our children need something to stand on. Or we no longer “One Nation Under God”? I need to know.

    There is never enough time to argue this matter. In fact time is running out. My question is this, how many more students need to get killed before we accept the truth? Prayer changes things. There are going to be those who believe and those who doubt. But at times even the doubter call on God. Every knee shall bow and every tougue shall confess. (Rom 14:11)

    Most people who love to debate aren’t doing anything for the good of the people. They are just debaters. The Bible reads as such in Romans 1:28-31
    28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
    29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
    30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
    31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:

    Those who believe in God’s word need to stand firm on his word just as the non-believers stand on what they believe or should I say don’t believe.

    We are tax payers and we should have a say in what goes on in the school. In today’s world we need more righteousness than religion. Religion is how you and righteousness who you are. I ask all of you, are you righteous in your thoughts, in your ways and in your actions?

    I have an idea, for all the believers out there, teach your children how to pray and then get them to join with others that believe in school and pray each day. I am sure that’s not unconstitutional. If children are allowed to wear their pants down low then I am sure that they can be allowed to pray if they desired.

    If you read everything I wrote I want to thank you for at least listening. May all of you be blessed and I hope and pray that we come to a common ground with this matter because there are some many other issues that need to be resolved.

    1. “The people who are fighting over prayer being put in school are the same ones that ask for prayer when things go wrong in their life.” I don’t think so. “And question is this, what will it hurt if the children are allowed to pray in school?” They are ALREADY aloowed to pray in school. You know that. But you are willing to be a liar to get what you want. What will it hurt? A lot of kids who are not Christian. They are already bullied. You don’t care though. “Most people who love to debate aren’t doing anything for the good of the people.” Hahahaaa. Every important sicietal change has happened thanks to lots of debate and talk and fight for change. “I have an idea, for all the believers out there, teach your children how to pray and then get them to join with others that believe in school and pray each day. I am sure that’s not unconstitutional. If children are allowed to wear their pants down low then I am sure that they can be allowed to pray if they desired.” THEY ARE ALREADY ALLOWED, HELLO!

      1. There is so much confusion in the world today I need to know what is your suggestion for curing the problems of the world. We are all passing comments but what the world needs is healing. Education is important and what I really feel is this, instead of focusing on the fact that there is no prayer in school lets look at the fact that if it’s left up to the higher ups there won’t be any schools at all.

        There are a few people out there that debate and get things done but when you check the list it’s slim. The majority are on post tearing each other apart.

        On the subject of religion, if feel that there is no room for bullying people into believing. This is suppose to be a free country where we can choose to believe in whatever we feel. Now be it right or wrong in the sight of the religious fanatics, it’s what the constitution was built upon.

        Even in the bible God gives you free will to believe. So we all need toll stop pointing fingers at each other. We are all in the same boat, we are just in different seats. if this ship called planet earth goes down we will all go down together.

        I know what many may disagree but that’s a choice that we all have the right to.

    2. No you need to understand that while you may think prayer works, it does not. I will bet any amount of money that you don’t really think it works either. I can prove it too. The next time a loved one is deathly ill, and they are in desperate need of medical attention, don’t go, just pray. I will bet anything that you won’t leave in the hands of your imaginary god, you will go to the doctors who actually spent thousands of hours studying and learning their craft. Prayer does not work, ask the amputee that has prayered forever to have their limb grow back. Why has it not happened, why has that prayered been unanwered?
      No prayer is a joke, and only provides comfort. Which if that is all you need then so be it. But don’t sit here and lie and say it works when it doesn’t.

    3. No you need to understand that while you may think prayer works, it does not. I will bet any amount of money that you don’t really think it works either. I can prove it too. The next time a loved one is deathly ill, and they are in desperate need of medical attention, don’t go, just pray. I will bet anything that you won’t leave in the hands of your imaginary god, you will go to the doctors who actually spent thousands of hours studying and learning their craft. Prayer does not work, ask the amputee that has prayered forever to have their limb grow back. Why has it not happened, why has that prayered been unanwered?
      No prayer is a joke, and only provides comfort. Which if that is all you need then so be it. But don’t sit here and lie and say it works when it doesn’t.

    1. What cannot be forgiven is someone with such a lack of education on reality, such lack of intelligence, being in a position of role model. Go back to school. A few words? More like a metric ton of words.

  14. I have two suggestions for Representative Jackson and her proposed bill. Why not have a ‘prayer of the day’. On Mondays, it would be a prayer to Vishnu, on Tuesdays it could be to Yahweh, on Wednesdays it could be to Allah, on Thursdays to Lord Buddha [not technically a god, but hey, equal time, y’know], and on Fridays the Shintoists could have their turn where everyone goes outside and stares at the Sun. Anyone who doesn’t want to stay in the hall on Wednesdays and prostrate themselves in the direction of Mecca can just remain standing. Another way to do it would be to have a ‘religion of the week’, so we’d have a week of prostration, followed by a week of sun-staring.

    An alternative proposition is, instead of those who don’t wish to pray to your god absenting themselves, that those who *do* want to pray go outside and do it there. Then they can come back inside for the Pledge of Allegiance.

  15. There is already a thing called “moment of silence”, followed right after the pledge. I believe that time is allotted for any prayer that you wish to make (or catch up on homework if you prefer).

  16. In the Pledge of Allegiance it says “One Nation Under God”. What God are they talking about?

  17. Lamar, I don’t care what your religious academic experience has been, but what part of “voluntary” don’t you understand? And if “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” doesn’t include public expression how can it really be free exercise?

    1. What part of – it doesn’t matter if it’s voluntary or not, it’s still illegal do you not understand?

      Anyways, this bill says voluntary, then again I can call an apple an orange but that doesn’t make it so. Technically, the Pledge of Allegiance is voluntary, but that didn’t stop my high school from threatening to expel us if we didn’t participate.

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