U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville, who built a reputation for pushing religion onto public school football players, today repeated his Christian nationalist talking points on the floor of the U.S. Senate.
As a coach, Tuberville was instrumental in spreading the harmful practice of scheduling Christian college football chaplains to push religion onto public school athletes. Tuberville played a prominent role in the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s comprehensive report, “Pray to Play,” exposing such abuses at the collegiate level. As the report pointed out, Tuberville is personally responsible for instituting unconstitutional chaplaincies at Ole Miss, Auburn, Texas Tech and Cincinnati.
Tuberville today declared from the floor, “We've got to start teaching our young people moral values again. That starts with putting God and prayer back in our schools.” Tuberville then lamented that U.S. students are underperforming in reading, science, and math compared to their counterparts abroad.
Tuberville is wrong twice over. First, prayer was never taken out of U.S. public schools, except when illegally imposed on students as an official part of the school day. “So long as there are pop math quizzes, there will be prayer in public schools,” quips FFRF Co-President Dan Barker. In fact, at least half of public schools in the United States were not scheduling classroom or other school-imposed prayer at the time of the 1962 and 1963 Supreme Court decisions protecting student rights of conscience. Tuberville wants to inflict his brand of religious rituals on all public school students, as he demonstrated when he was a football coach.
Second, Tuberville is laughably wrong to say that more religion is the solution to low science scores. Religion has historically inhibited scientific progress, insisting that gaps in our scientific knowledge must be filled with dogma rather than by reason-based evidence. From the heliocentric model of the solar system to evolution, religion has always been there to condemn the quest for scientific truth and progress.
Religion is the typical justification of politicians like Tuberville who reject the science on vaccines, climate change and more. Tuberville should reflect on the fact that the countries that have outpaced the United States in terms of academics are, on a whole, much less religious.
FFRF is not optimistic about Tuberville’s prospects of helping to advance science while on the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee. That committee should be composed of lawmakers who respect science and are committed to upholding the rights of public school students, including the right to a secular education.