Tag Archives: Governor Phil Bryant

HB 1523: Mississippi is Better than This!

HB 1523 is discriminatory in that it singles out a select group of people, and it is contradictory to legislative claims that it protects the religious rights of Christians.   The religious right of a Christian is to love God and his fellow man, and HB 1523 protects neither of those rights.  The bill is little more than a cynical and biased shell game enacted by individuals with selective Christian beliefs.  The idea that such a bill could surface in what a growing number of Mississippians were beginning to hope and believe was an enlightened 21st Century shows that cynicism and bigotry in the state legislature and the state as a whole is alive and well.

If Mississippi legislators truly intended to protect the religious rights of Christians against the participatory sin of doing business with sinners, why didn’t they include adultery, murder, theft, bearing false witness, lying, cursing, coveting, breaking civil laws, laziness, divorce and deceit in the bill?  Could it be that some of those sins hit too close to home and are therefore exclusionary sins?  Legislators can quote the Bible and talk about religious rights all they want, but unlike the Mississippi legislature, the Bible does not single out homosexuality as the only sin.  If it did, HB 1523 might have some merit, but it does not.  Sin is sin; therefore, all sin falls short of the glory of God.  How Christian is it to place hatred of sin above love for the sinner?  Shouldn’t Christians, even Christian legislators, focus on love and witnessing and leave God to focus on sin and judging?

HB 1523 promotes a perpetual state of conservative self-centered sameness; the idea that everyone should be cut from the same template as the writer of the bill and those it claims to represent.  This does not mean the writer or supporters of this bill are bad or evil people; they simply dance a full beat off center, fearful of the changing world around them.  They live in a continuous state of self-flagellation of their human condition powerless to reason beyond their inherited convictions of what is right and wrong.  Their soap box of fanatical righteousness is nurtured by an astute conviction that their beliefs, even when fractional, are beyond reproach as they go about the business of molding the world in their image.  They embrace their phobias as a covetous crusade for their definition of the norm which often disqualifies their understanding of reasonable discourse.  Their belief system is frequently fragmented and soft core, leaving them prone to react angrily even violently when cornered, confused, or contradicted.  They live in constant fear of becoming irrelevant, and it is that fear that ushers them ever closer to irrelevance.

Although Mississippi’s past speaks volumes about its intolerance, Mississippi in the 21st Century is better than this!  Shel Silverstein said we should look at one another only if we first turn out the lights.  With no light to reflect the pigment of our skin or the brother or sister we choose to stand at our side, we are all the same.  It is time we turn out the lights in Mississippi and see our brothers and sisters with our hearts.  It is time we turn on the light in our hearts, and see each other through God’s eyes.  It is through that light that we can conquer the intolerant fear that once again threatens our great state.  HB 1523 is a serpent that should be crushed under the heel of Mississippians unified in supporting the humanity of all people, and in due time, it will be.  No one outside the state will believe this, but Mississippi is better than HB 1523!

JL

©Jack Linton, April 5, 2016

 

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HB 49: The Mississippi Bill of Silence Revisited

NOTE – February 2016: I originally published this blog January 23, 2015. Luckily, Mississippi House Education Chairman, John L. Moore’s attempt to muzzle state public school educators and deny them their Constitutional right to free speech did not make it out of committee in 2015. However, in January 2016, he basically resubmitted his original bill under the title HB 49. There is very little difference in the two bills. Both HB 449 and HB 49 are written for the same purpose – to muzzle state public school educators and deny them their Constitutional right to free speech. My thinking is that Mr. Moore is hoping last year’s outcry over HB 449 has been forgotten, and that the door is open in 2016 to slip his Bill of Silence unchallenged through the Education Committee. He knows that with a super-majority Republican House and majority Senate there will be little opposition to the bill once it clears the Education Committee. He also knows the chance of Governor Phil Bryant not signing the bill into law if it gets to his desk is slim and none. WAKE UP MISSISSIPPI! THE WOLF IS AT YOUR DOOR!

The Mississippi Bill of Silence:  HB 449 or is it 49?

(First published January 23, 2015 as The Mississippi Bill of Silence:  HB 449 )

It came to my attention last night by a very agitated teacher that Mississippi House Education Chairman, John L. Moore (R), had submitted a bill intended to silence educators across the state on education issues. The good thing is that the teacher expressed her shock and disbelief after school hours, and by doing so, she was not in violation of Mr. Moore’s proposed “Bill of Silence.” To be fair, some of Mr. Moore’s bill is common sense and justifiable. It should be a violation of state law for school employees to use school time, school property or school supplies for political reasons (i.e. a teacher should not be emailing his/her legislators at 11:30 a.m. when the school day is in session). However, if that was all HB (House Bill) 449 was about, I would not be writing, but unfortunately, he did not stop there.

As you read through the bill, it becomes very clear Moore is not only concerned with what school administrators and teachers do and say politically during the school day but after the school day as well. If his bill passes, superintendents and principals will no longer be able to even mention a legislative bill, action or issue in an administrative meeting or faculty meeting without fear of being charged with a misdemeanor and fined up to $10,000. If you don’t believe me, look up the bill for yourself and read through it carefully, or you can simply keep reading as I look at each section of the bill and offer my response. Either way, all educators need to be familiar with House Bill 449.

HB 449

John L. Moore – Republican — Representative — District 60

  • HB 449, Section 2a, c, d, e – Section 2 deals with prohibiting political use of school time, political coercion of school personnel, and involvement in campaigning and lobbying. School district employees cannot use school district time (regularly scheduled hours of school operation), property, equipment, supplies or personnel to produce, distribute, disseminate, circulate or communicate any material or information in support or opposition of any political party, philosophy or issue in an election that could impact the outcome. Campaigning on behalf of a specific candidate or issue or lobbying the Legislature for policy change is not permitted. In addition, school district employees cannot attempt to coerce political support from school personnel or conduct fund raising for political purposes during regularly scheduled school hours.

RESPONSE: School time, school property, school equipment and supplies as well as the directed or solicited services of school personnel SHOULD NOT be used for political purposes. Political activities SHOULD BE conducted outside the school employment day on personal time – not school time. If a school administrator, board member, teacher or other paid school employee wishes to exercise their Constitutional right of involvement in political activities, they SHOULD perform those activities on their personal time, which may include the hours before and after their work duty assignments, weekends, holidays and approved personal leave.  Nevertheless, there may be times when information of a political nature needs to be delivered to school employees during administrative meetings or faculty meetings. This is where a law such as the one proposed by Mr. Moore could be so literally interpreted that it imposes an unrealistic expectation that may lead to neglect of professional duties such as communication.

  • HB 449, Section 2b – Section 2b deals with prohibiting school employees from using their school position to influence school personnel. School employees cannot use their official position in any way to influence or attempt to influence, district personnel to support or oppose any political party, philosophy or issue in an election that could impact the outcome. School employees cannot campaign on behalf of a specific candidate or issue or lobby the Legislature for policy change. Such prohibition shall include, but not be limited to, any form of advocacy or opposition in a classroom or school setting or other school related employment relationship.

RESPONSE: School officials should not be permitted to openly influence or coerce school district personnel during regularly scheduled school hours or even after hours, but delivering information that may be politically charged to inform employees as to potential impact on their jobs should be allowed.  This would hold true when the information and accompanying views pertaining to that information are directly as well as indirectly connected to the job the employees are expected to perform.  Also, who a school administrator, school board member, teacher or other school employee influences, supports, or opposes outside the school on his/her personal time is their business and Constitutional right.  This may be a bit radical, but technically if HB 449 passes, all school administrators, school board members, teachers, and other school employees would be in violation of HB 449 by exercising their Constitutional right to VOTE since their vote has a direct influence on the outcome of elections.

  • HB 449, Section 3 (1) – Part 1 of Section 3 clarifies many of the “can do’s” and “cannot do’s” discussed in Section 2; however, Section 3 (2) says that the school district superintendent and school board members must remain neutral by not engaging in political activities on school property and by not publicly supporting or opposing any political party, philosophy or issue in an election that could impact the outcome.  Superintendents and school board members are forbidden to campaign on behalf of a specific candidate or issue, or lobbying the Legislature for policy change.

RESPONSE: Lobbying the Legislature for policy change is a major part of being a district superintendent or school board member! The position of the district superintendent is a POLITICAL POSITION, so to keep him/her from speaking out on political issues is ridiculous! This is a blatant attempt to hush voices of opposition since the district superintendents are the ones in the best position to get their voices heard! Mr. Moore understands fully that by removing the superintendents’ right to speak out on behalf of students and teachers, he is in effect putting a muzzle on state educators, which leaves the legislators free to run Mississippi public education as they please.

  • HB 449, Section 4 (1) (2) – Section 4 of HB 449 sets the penalties for violation of this act. Anyone who violates the act will be guilty of a misdemeanor and fined up to $10,000 on the first offense. A second violation of the act will result in a misdemeanor and up to $10,000 fine as well as revocation of the individual’s professional license and certification by the State Board of Education.

RESPONSE: While I am pleased to see Mr. Moore was gracious enough to allow the State Board of Education some say in an educational issue even if only in a punitive sense, I am amazed that an educator exercising his/her Constitutional rights could be fined as much as $10,000 while a parent guilty of child neglect for excessive school absences can be fined no more than $1,000. Since when in Mississippi did speaking up for yourself and exercising your freedom of expression become a more contemptuous crime than child neglect?

As the teacher who brought this newest development to my attention and the attention of many others said, “You (teachers) should be ENRAGED!” She is absolutely right, but if HB 449 passes, it will not matter. The Bill of Silence will effectively hush all educator protests.

NOTE – February 2016:  Educators across Mississippi should be enraged.  In fact, all Mississippi citizens should be infuriated!  Are we living in the Magnolia State where liberty and Constitutional rights fall just underneath God and Family, or are we living under the Mississippi Third Reich where educators are not considered to be free citizens with rights under the Constitution of the United States?  Who gave Mr. Moore the authority or the Mississippi Legislature (if this bill passes) over the Constitutional rights of any citizen of the United States?

WAKE UP MISSISSIPPI!
THE CONTEMPT IN THE MISSISSIPPI LEGISLATURE FOR PUBLIC SCHOOL EDUCATORS HAS GONE TOO FAR!

JL

©Jack Linton, January 23, 2015

Republished © Jack Linton, February 14, 2016

The Cat in the Hat Supports Initiative 42

I do not understand.
Why they say no way.
They signed on the line;
They agreed to pay.

But state Legislators refuse
To honor their education promise.
It doesn’t make sense
When it is such a simple premise!

See, it works like this,
Politicians make law
That everyone must follow
Even politicians and in-laws.

So, why the fuss?
It’s law; honor it!
Not to, doesn’t make sense
Not one little bit!

And then
Uncurling from his mat
Stretched and stood the Cat in the Hat!

We looked!
“It’s time,” said the Cat in the Hat.
We looked!
And saw a petition
In the hand of the Cat in the Hat!
And he said to us,
“Enough is enough, it’s as simple as that!”

“I know it’s hard,
And it won’t be easy.
So, don’t be afraid,
And please don’t get queasy!”

“We’ll place a petition on the ballot,”
Said the cat.
“For education we’ll take a stand.”
Said the Cat in the Hat.
“It’s the only option left to do.
Education won’t be adequately funded
Without Initiative 42.”

The teachers and children
Did not know what to say;
They’d never had a friend
To look after them that way.

But Governor Bryant said, “No! No!
Make that cat go away!
Tell that Cat in the Hat
We ain’t gonna pay!
He should not be here.
He should not be about!
He should not be here
Somebody please kick him out!”

“Now! Now! Have no fear.
Have no fear!” said the cat.
“It’s not a trick; it’s not bad,”
Said the Cat in the Hat.
“A little petition is all it is
With nearly 200,000 Mississippi names
Standing up for education
Tired of playing political games!”

“Throw it out!” said Tate Reeves.
“It’s not fair; not fair at all!”
“Throw it out!” cried Phillip Gunn.
“Initiative 42 will lead to our fall!”

“Have no fear!” said the cat.
“Initiative 42 rights a wrong.
Do your job, nothing to fear;
See a judge if the same old song.
Fund education as you promised,
And let that be that.
Fund education! We’ll leave you alone,”
Said the Cat in the Hat.

“Two can play that game!”
Said Reeves and Gunn.
“We’ll add confusion to the mix!
Initiative 42A will make it fun!”

“Look at this!
Look what you’ve done!” said the cat.
“The people don’t know if they’re between the A or T
Much less where they’re AT!
Should they choose 42 or 42A?
My oh my, what should they do?
You’re the Grinches who stole Christmas!
Mr. Gunn and Reeves, shame on you!

And look!
Now they’re running TV ads
That would scare even Stephen King!
Just to make Initiative 42 look bad!

Oh, no.
That is not all…
They tell us a black Democrat judge
Will cause Mississippi to fall!
He’ll spend school money as he pleases,
He’ll give it to his favorite schools!
And they tell us this
Because they think we’re all fools!

“But, have no fear,”
Said the cat.
“Initiative 42 is on the ballot,”
Said the Cat in the Hat.
“The ballot may look tricky,
But Mississippians are not fools;
They will see through the smoke
And vote for Initiative 42!”

The teachers and children
Did not know what to say;
They’d never had a friend
To look after them that way.

Adapted from The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss by Jack Linton (October 24, 2015)