Tag Archives: Nevada Constitution

Grab the Money and Go: Nevada School Funding Case Scheduled


It’s a turkey, no matter how one looks at it – the proposal for parents to be able to grab public money for “private” education in the state of Nevada and run off to do heaven only knows what with it.  And, now the case comes to the courts.  [LVRJ]

“The law passed by the Republican-controlled 2015 Legislature and signed by Gov. Brian Sandoval allows parents to set up education savings accounts to receive a portion of state per-pupil funding and use the money, about $5,100 annually, to send their children to private school or pay for other educational options. The program, administered by the state treasurer’s office, has received more than 6,000 applications.

A group of parents sued in Carson City, arguing it will illegally divert money from public schools. A Carson City judge in January agreed and issued an injunction.

The ACLU challenged the law on separate grounds, claiming it violates a constitutional prohibition against using money for sectarian purposes. A Clark County judge last month rejected those arguments and upheld the law.” [LVRJ]

I’m not at all sure why the ACLU case didn’t have a better outcome, because the Nevada Constitution is very clear about prohibiting public funds for sectarian use.   Additionally, I’m a bit fogged about why the ultra-conservatives in Nevada would want to allow funds for potentially radical religious instruction of any stripe.  There’s a question here – would these same people be so supportive if the private school receiving the money were, say, a madrasah?

And, it’s notable that we aren’t talking about peanuts here.  If 6,000 families each grab $5,100 every year from taxpayer funds for private schooling, then we’re speaking of some $30,600,000, or $61,200,000 for the biennium.

If  the idea is to bankrupt public education and then privatize the remnants, this is a perfect formula.  Complain that the public schools are not performing to some artificially established standard, then promote the creation of private schools, followed hard by the transfer of funds away from public education into those private “reformers,” and perpetuate the cycle of under-funded public  schools trying to compete with corporation sponsored private ones.  There’s no way for the public schools to win, and that’s precisely what the privatizers have in mind.

Stay tuned, the Nevada Supreme Court will hear the case on July 29, 2016.

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Filed under education, nevada education, Nevada judiciary, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, privatization, profiteering

The Bundy Boys Join the Circus

AB 408

Remember the Bundy Boys?  Wonkette hasn’t forgotten the Fiore Forays into governmental mismanagement, nor have too many other people.  Now, the flags are flying again, for Freedumb!, in the form of AB 408, a singularly silly bill put forth by the usual group of Tea Partying Fanatics: Assemblywomen Fiore, Dooling, Shelton, Titus, and Seaman. Yes, it’s Ladies’ Day for AB 408, with some fellows tossed in as co-sponsors.  The ladies would like to kick the Feds out of Nevada:

“AN ACT relating to public lands; prohibiting the Federal Government from owning or regulating certain public lands or the right to use public waters; requiring the State Land Registrar to adopt regulations that provide for the appropriation and registration of grazing, logging, mineral development or other beneficial use rights on public lands; requiring the State Land Registrar to sell permits for grazing, logging, mineral development or other beneficial uses on public lands for which such rights are not registered and appropriated; requiring the board of county commissioners of each county to impose a tax on profits from the beneficial use of public lands;…”

Translation: Any rancher who doesn’t want to pay grazing fees for the use of public lands doesn’t have to.  And, we can go one step further – any mining company or logging enterprise can have the State Land Registrar sell off Nevada’s minerals and timber resources at will.  It’s privatization, as they say, on steroids.

What the Tea Bag Biddies seem to have forgotten is that there are other people using those lands too – not just the likes of Cliven “I want to tell you one more thing I know about The Negro” Bundy – and they aren’t hikers and tree huggers, they’re other ranchers.   If the Bundy ilk are allowed to over-graze range lands the land isn’t just Bundy’s problem, it becomes a problem for other ranching operations in the area which might want to use the land eventually.  This isn’t the only thing the Tea Bag Biddies seem to have overlooked.

There is more to BLM land management operations than protecting wildlife, there’s the part wherein the BLM is involved with wildland fire fighting, fuel mitigation, and related issues; combined with programs to manage energy resources, communication right of way and access, and hunting and fishing access.  Then, there’s that pesky bit of Constitutional History, in the act admitting Nevada into statehood:

“Third. That the people inhabiting said territory do agree and declare, that they forever disclaim all right and title to the unappropriated public lands lying within said territory, and that the same shall be and remain at the sole and entire disposition of the United States; …..”

So, the terms of AB 408 are ultimately selfish, deliberately narrow, and most probably unconstitutional – and Ammon Bundy, litigant in a relatively new phony lawsuit against the Feds, is gathering support from the Tea Bag Biddies in the Legislature. [LTN]  And, they’ll be hoping for some company. Company who share the Bundy fictional version of the country:

“The natural resources of America are being stolen from the people and claimed by the federal government. Everything we eat, wear, live in, use and so on comes from the earth. If we lose access to the land and natural resources we become beggars to those who control access. Without doubt this is the greatest immediate threat to the individual person and people as a whole. More lives, liberties and property can be taken under this threat than any other we see.”  [RReport]

No statement could make it more abundantly evident that the Bundy Brigade sees itself as separate from the other 320,000,000 people in this country.  For all the blathering about Constitutional-ism, the Brigade appears to have forgotten the first words of the hallowed document: We the people of the United States, on Order to form a more perfect Union…”  We the people form the government. Not “we the Bundys.”  A rough translation of Bundy-ism might be: What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine too.

And lest we forget, it was this same general philosophy which attracted support from the two Bundy-ites who killed Officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo, in Las Vegas, NV in June 2014. 

The bill will get its hearing, and should get nothing more. 

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Filed under Constitution, Hate Crimes, Interior Department, Nevada, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, public lands, Rural Nevada

Catechism Isn’t The Chess Club: Nevada’s AB 120 and its implications

Prayer in Schools As if the State of Nevada had nothing else with which to concern itself – infrastructure needs, including building maintenance and upgrades, attendance to the backlog of maintenance needs in our parks and other tourist attractions, the need to diversify the economy, the need to address issues surrounding living wages – the Assembled Wisdom will be spending some time on AB 120 – the Put Proselytizing in Public Schools Bill.

Here’s the LCB summary:

“Section 2 of this bill clarifies that pupils at public schools are entitled to: (1) pray to the same extent and under the same circumstances as pupils are allowed to meditate, reflect or speak on nonreligious matters; (2) express a religious viewpoint to the same extent and under the same circumstances as pupils are allowed to express a viewpoint on a nonreligious matter; (3) possess or distribute religious literature to the same extent and under the same circumstances as pupils are allowed to possess or distribute literature on a nonreligious matter; and (4) organize or participate in any prayer group, religious club or religious gathering before, during or after regular school hours to the same extent and under the same circumstances as pupils are allowed to organize and participate in any extracurricular group or activity before, during and after regular school hours.”

There are some problems herein.  The first of which is constitutional. Not the Federal Constitution, but the State one.  The issue is raised in Article XI:

“Sec: 9.  Sectarian instruction prohibited in common schools and university.  No sectarian instruction shall be imparted or tolerated in any school or University that may be established under this Constitution.  Section Ten.  No public money to be used for sectarian purposes.  No public funds of any kind or character whatever, State, County or Municipal, shall be used for sectarian purpose. [Added in 1880. Proposed and passed by the 1877 legislature; agreed to and passed by the 1879 legislature; and approved and ratified by the people at the 1880 general election. See: Statutes of Nevada 1877, p. 221; Statutes of Nevada 1879, p. 149.]”

If a statement, tract, pamphlet, book, audio recording, video recording, etc. is to be distributed among students where does one draw a line between what is an “expression of a viewpoint” and an element of “sectarian instruction?” 

Secondly, the Nevada Constitution is abundantly clear that no public funds of any kind may be used for sectarian purposes.  If a proposed “religious club or religious gathering” is sponsored by the school is a faculty adviser to be assigned? If so, and most districts do require a faculty adviser for the supervision of extracurricular activities, then if the advisor is paid for supervision activities does this create a Constitutional question? Similarly, if the sectarian organization or gathering uses the public school facilities who pays for the heating, cooling, or the light bill?  Since AB 120 says that the access to sectarian activities must be “before, during, and after school” then a reasonable person would have to assume that the schools would be subsidizing the facilities during those times.

There are more tangential issues which need to be explored. For example, what is the origin of the “religious literature,” are these published by a sectarian organization for distribution or are they cranked out on the school copier?  If the latter, is the lease for the copier or attendant fiscal considerations, part of what should be considered the expenditure of public funds?

In some ethereal abstract way giving equal access to everyone sounds nice and tidy, fair and equitable – but the proscription on sectarian instruction creates all manner of issues for which litigation seems the only natural recourse for their resolution.  Natural, but expensive.

There are some other practical considerations which deserve some attention.  For example, does the language in AB 120 imply that religious organizations which have institutional programs for elementary and secondary school students are free to utilize the facilities of the public schools? Does this mean that LDS Seminary programs or Roman Catholic Catechism sessions are included? Does this mean there should be a Melamed tinokos’ (children’s teacher) available for Talmud Torah instruction as in a Cheder?

Bible Study groups present a plethora of issues.  If there is provision for an informal Bible Study group, then must the school make time and space equally available for the Koran? The Talmud? The Buddhist Suttas?  And, while we’re on the subject – which Bible? The King James? The New American Standard? The Revised Standard version? The RSV Catholic Edition?  If there is a “study group” using the King James version, then if parents object must the school offer time and space for the RSV-CE group?

Another practical consideration is predicated on the notion that children, especially adolescents, tend to be pack animals and parents tend to be attuned to individual preferences.  If, for example, instruction or Bible study tends toward a congregationalist  or individualistic interpretation of Scripture then what might be the reaction of parents who tend toward the more  episcopal interpretation?

Assuming the school population mirrors that of an average community, the majority will be some version of Christian – but what version? Further, if the majority is some version of Christian, and the majority of the school population does participate in a morning prayer session, what of the minority students who don’t?   What provisions or accommodations are made for students who come from homes in which it is considered improper to ask God for anything – homes in which only thanks and praise are appropriately  addressed to the deity?  Again — assuming that peer pressure is a profound thing among adolescents – how does the school deal with the individual preferences of the parents? How does it deal with children from the homes of non-Christians, or non-believers?  How does it cope with the feelings of those who feel “left out?”  Or, under pressure to “conform?”

Then there is the matter of what is appropriate in public schools.  There are extremists in nearly all forms of organized religion.  Would materials from the Westboro Baptist Church be appropriate in the Small Town Central Elementary School?  Would the teachings of an Imam associated with the Wahhabist version of Islam be appropriate? Would publications from the Radical Traditional Catholics be appropriate given their hard-core anti-Semitism?  How is a public school to differentiate between the radical and the mundane if ALL “religious viewpoints” are to be given “equal time?”

AB 120 is shot through with both constitutional and practical problems.  The best solution in a public setting might very well be to leave the religious instruction of children in the hands of their parents, and to have the school concentrate its energies and resources on reading, writing, math, science, and the other basic elements of its curricula.


Filed under education, religion

Bells, Books, Candles and S.B. 192

Test PencilWhich of the following does not belong with the other three items?

(a)Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” U.S. Constitution, Amendment I

(b)Second. That perfect toleration of religious sentiment shall be secured, and no inhabitant of said state shall ever be molested, in person or property, on account of his or her mode of religious worship.”  Nevada Constitution, Ordinance

(c)Sec:4. Liberty of conscience.  The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship without discrimination or preference shall forever be allowed in this State, and no person shall be rendered incompetent to be a witness on account of his opinions on matters of his religious belief, but the liberty of conscience hereby secured, shall not be so construed, as to excuse acts of licentiousness or justify practices inconsistent with the peace, or safety of this State.”  Nevada Constitution, Article I, Section 4

(d)Notwithstanding any provision of NRS 41.0305 to 41.039, 25 inclusive, but subject to the limitation on damages set forth in 26 NRS 41.035 when applicable, a person whose religious exercise has been substantially burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding and obtain appropriate relief against the governmental entity.  The court shall award costs and attorney’s fees to a person who prevails in an action brought against a governmental entity pursuant to this section.”  S.B. 192  *Defines a political subdivision

(ANS: ) Why doesn’t item D (S.B. 192) fit with the others?  Because it really isn’t about religious liberty.

The Nevada Rural Democratic Caucus explains:

“SB192, the  Nevada Preservation of Religious Freedom Act (NPRFA), is currently being considered by the Judiciary committee. NPRFA is a “statified” version of the federal RFRA (Religion Freedom Restoration Act), which was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1997 because it overstepped Congress’ power to enforce the 14th Amendment (City of Boerne v Flores).  If enacted, it would “prohibit governmental entities from substantially burdening the exercise of religion.”

And what might those “burdens be?”  How about the “burden” of having to avoid asking about a person’s sexual orientation in a job interview?  Or, the “burden” of having to dispense a Morning After prescription to prevent an unwanted conception?  Or, the “burden” of having to include contraceptive prescriptions to an employee in a health insurance policy?  Or, the “burden” of having to have any health insurance coverage for any employee should the employer believe in faith healing alone?

Could it be the “burden” of having to interview a prospective employee who would need to have either Friday or Saturday off for religious services?   Could it be the “burden” of not discriminating against members of the LGBT community?  Or, might it be the “burden” of not discriminating against women in the workplace?  Against, unmarried women with children? Or, would the “burden” be that a young woman who had an abortion could not be summarily fired?

Time for Confession

There’s a problem shared by all confessional faiths.  And, in this instance “confessional” doesn’t refer to the Sacrament of Reconciliation — instead it is used more generally, and might be taken as synonymous with “creed.”

It might be the Nicene Creed, or the Apostles’ Creed, or in Protestant denominations the term ‘confession,’ like a creed but generally longer and more specific — The Augsburg Confession, the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Savoy Declaration, or the Baptist Confession.  Be it creed or confession, the principles are essentially the same.  The profession constitutes orthodoxy as defined by some Christian religious denomination.

The first problem is the term “orthodoxy.”  The second problem is that the United States isn’t orthodox.

The last time Pew Research looked at religious affiliation in America, the numbers showed 51.3% were Protestants of various confessions; 23.9% were Catholics; 1.7% were members of the LDS Church.   1.7% of our population is Jewish, divided into Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and “other.” 0.7% of our population is Buddhist (also divided).  Another 0.6% is Muslim, divided into Shia, Sunni, and “other.”  Hindus add another 0.4% of the population.  Atheists are about 1.6% of the population, agnostics another 2.4%, and there’s a significant number, 12.1% of Americans, who described themselves as “nothing in particular.”

Here’s where the “orthodoxy problem” kicks in.  While 26.3% of American Protestants described themselves as “evangelical,” another 18.1% declared themselves to be members of “mainline” churches.   And, what to do with the other 4.7% of Americans who aren’t Christian in any form or confession? With the 16.1% of the Unaffiliated?  This is now; so why were the framers of the U.S. Constitution so adamant about preventing the establishment (read: preference) of any single creed or confession of orthodoxy in the newly forming United States of America?

First, there were practical matters — How does a new country reconcile the Congregationalism of John Adams with the Episcopal preferences of George Washington?  How do you keep a nation together with Presbyterians in the western portions, Baptists forming congregations in the midlands, Dutch Reformed Church members holding sway in New York, and Swedish Reformed Church members in Delaware?   Why were the framers so intent upon keeping religion off the table?  Secondly, there were memories of a dismal history in not so Jolly Old England.

Not one, but three civil wars

Most of the original colonists were English. England experienced three periods of civil war beginning in 1642 and not fully over until 1651.  Scholars are still mulling over whether the civil wars were religious or political, or some admixture thereof.   Let’s try “admixture” because some of the confusion between King and Countryside was related to the fact that there was the “High Church” (of England) considered entirely too Popish to be the “real” religion of God’s people; there were the Reformers (We’ll just adjust the Church of England a little bit and that should be enough); there were the Puritans (Get rid of the episcopal nature of the Church of England); there were the Presbyterians  who were at odds with the Independents.  Somewhere between and among the Royalists (usually Church of England) and the Puritans, and the Presbyterians, there was sufficient animosity to keep the fires of war burning and the battles raging.  This history wasn’t lost on the framers of the U.S. Constitution.  Granted, if we take 1646 as the end of the last English Civil War, then there were 143 years between the end of the war and the drafting of the U.S. Constitution — it’s been 148 since the end of our own Civil War, and “Lincoln” is a blockbuster movie… we’ve not forgotten ours either.

The point is that the framers were well aware that religious confessions and creeds were inextricably bound into the fabric of the political factions which caused not one but three civil wars in the Old Home Land.  This would be something to be avoided.

Uncomfortable Pluralism

There’s a trade off to be made between religious freedom and political rights.  Everyone has political rights, and everyone has religious freedom.  However, where does my right to freely practice my religion begin to impede your right to practice yours? Further, when does my right to practice any religion freely become perilously close to Theocracy as I impose my creed or confession on the behavior and beliefs of others?

If we take the dictionary definition of a theocracy (a form of government in which God or a deity is recognized as the supreme civil ruler, the God’s or deity’s laws being interpreted by the ecclesiastical authorities,) at what point are those ecclesiastical authorities impinging upon political authority in a democracy?   No one promised pluralism was ever going to be comfortable.

Tyranny of the Majority or the Minority?

Our discomfort with pluralism is, happily, less obvious, and far less bloody, in 21st century American than in 17th century England.  That doesn’t mean it can’t be as obvious as the daily dose of confessional rhetoric emanating from religious leaders in the media.   Yes, about 75% of Americans claim Christianity in some form, but that covers everyone from those who still prefer the Tridentine Mass to the Unitarian-Universalists.  There’s no way to find any “orthodoxy” along that spectrum in terms of creeds, confessions, or the lack thereof.

So, what is S.B. 192 about?  If we were truly talking about religious freedom, then we’d be cognizant of the variations, of the pluralism, in American religious life and NOT trying to impose the confessionally based beliefs of some ecclesiastical authorities on those who don’t share in the creeds.  However, if we are talking about the imposition of confessionally based beliefs on the body politic then aren’t we essentially advocating the “right” of a minority to determine what the majority will or will not be allowed to do?

As uncomfortable as pluralism may be, it’s origins in the American colonies is well documented, and it’s implications for modern notions of the separation of church and state are the foundations of American tolerance and sense of community.   Just as I have no right to demand others who don’t share my basic religious precepts align their lives according to my lights, I would expect the same consideration from others.

I don’t expect others to put the same significance to bells as I might. I don’t expect a person to follow the Nicene Creed, or the Westminster Confession of Faith, or the Quran or Hadith, or the Torah, or Rig-Veda or Avesta, or the Book of Mormon … and I’d be pleased to have others allow me the same consideration.  It’s hard enough in difficult times to keep one’s own candle burning, we don’t need to try to blow each others’ out.

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Filed under Nevada legislature, Politics