Kansas Republicans Want to Outlaw Any Free Speech They Don’t Like

If Kansas Republicans have their way, our fact-based world will soon be illegal and reality’s liberal bias a distant memory. They have done all they can to resist facts short of simply making it illegal to teach them, and that oversight will be corrected with a new piece of legislation, Senate Bill 401, “AN ACT concerning crimes and punishment; relating to promotion to minors of material harmful to minors.”

And no, this bill, which is backed by the American Family Association, is not aimed at pornographers. It is a sort of “religious freedom” bill like those we have seen in Kansas and Arizona, but aimed at teachers rather than at gays and lesbians.

Harmful material, in case you’re wondering, also does NOT include a Bible filled with rape and murder and King Solomon’s lurid musings (e.g. Song of Songs 7:1-9). They do still definitely want to bring the Bible back to school in Kansas. Harmful material, in this case = reproductive facts and anything else they might not approve of.

According to The Wichita Eagle,

Senate Bill 401, approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, was drafted in response to a January incident at a Shawnee Mission middle school in which a poster used in sex education classes was put on a classroom door.

What were they thinking at Shawnee Mission middle school? Everybody knows babies come from God.

Yes, the reproductive system has been deemed pornographic. Sexual facts have been deemed pornographic. Boys do not have penises and girls do not have vaginas and never shall the twain meet in fundamentalist fantasyland.

Shawnee Mission district has removed the poster “pending a detailed review of the material.”

SB 401 has your typical Religious Right impetus behind it. Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook (R-Shawnee) who introduced it, has also introduced a bill requiring parental consent for sex education in public schools, SB 376. You’d think sex education would be a given – stay home if you want to believe in storks or a sex-free Jesus-based baby delivery system.

The Kansas-National Education Association is not impressed, pointing out that, “If this bill were to pass, it would provide more ammunition for anyone to petition to bring a teacher, librarian, or principal before a grand jury.” The KNEA makes clear that,

Senate Bill 401 removes from public, private and parochial schools the defense of literary or artistic merit or significance when someone accuses the school of exposing students to “offensive” materials.

The same applies to literature. For years people have tried to get books pulled from literature classes and school libraries. Huckleberry Finn, I Know Why the Caged Bird
Sings, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret are three examples of books that have been challenged over the years. But the defense of literary merit has been allowed. Senate Bill 401 removes that defense from public, private, and parochial schools.

If you think this only has to do with “obscenity,” you are wrong. While the bill does address obscene materials, its provisions also apply if “a reasonable person would find that the material or performance lacks serious literary, scientific, educational, artistic or political value for minors.” This language is so broad as to include almost anything.

Could someone challenge Sinclair Lewis’ Elmer Gantry as lacking “political value?”

Makes you wonder how these people deal with all the pornographic material in their Bibles, both violent and sexual. What the Bible has in it makes this poster seem tame by way of comparison.

What is interesting is that, where the Bible is concerned, the Religious Right is a big defender of the “free exchange of ideas.” In February 2013, the so-called Alliance Defending Freedom got upset that a Kansas school banned fliers with biblical verses. This prompted Legal Counsel Matt Sharp to say,

Public schools should encourage, not shut down, the free exchange of ideas. The law on this is extremely clear: school policies cannot target religious speech for exclusion. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech for all students, regardless of their religious or political beliefs.


The Alliance Defending Freedom lawsuit, K.R. v. Unified School District No. 204, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, explains, “Students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate. Non-disruptive, private student expression is protected by the First Amendment.” Moreover, “the government may not discriminate against speech based on its viewpoint, regardless of the forum.”

The lawsuit also notes that the student’s posting of the material did not “interfere with the orderly conduct of educational activity within the school.”

“Marginalizing students of faith removes an important influence for good from the school community,” added Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “We hope the school district will revise its policy so that students can exercise their constitutionally protected freedoms.”

So…Free speech cannot be discriminated against “regardless of it’s forum” – unless that forum contains material the American Taliban does not like. Remember when right wing groups in Kansas tried to keep Harry Potter away from children? The First Amendment wasn’t a big deal then, was it?

Unless the content is Christian-specific, in fact, Religious Right groups care nothing at all for the First Amendment rights of the students, as demonstrated by a couple of examples, also from Kansas:

Books involving sexual relations, especially homosexual relationships, are often targeted. A 1995 federal court case involved the Olathe, Kansas, school board, which voted to remove the book “Annie on My Mind” from school libraries. The novel illustrates a lesbian relationship between two teenagers. The court found the school board violated the students’ rights under the First Amendment and the equivalent provisions of the state constitution. Although the school board originally said they banned the book because of its “educational unsuitability,” the court ruled that they actually objected to the book’s premise and principles and overturned the book’s removal. (Case v. Unified School District No. 233)

Another example of censorship based on homosexuality was the 2000 case of Sund v. City of Wichita Falls, Texas. Members of a church in Wichita Falls fought to remove two books, “Heather Has Two Mommies” and “Daddy’s Roommate,” because they objected to the books’ descriptions of homosexuality. The city council voted to restrict access to the books if 300 people signed a petition asking for the restriction. Another group of citizens filed suit after the books were taken out of the children’s section and put on a locked shelf in the adult area of the library. The federal district court permanently stopped the city from enforcing the resolution permitting the removal of the two books because the resolution was not narrowly tailored, had no review process and was unreasonably content-based. (Sund v. City of Wichita Falls, Texas)

If Kansas Republicans have their way, King Solomon can fantasize about a woman’s breasts in class, but, in the words of the KNEA, “A teacher who takes a field trip to the state capitol and suddenly notes the bare breasted woman in the artwork in the rotunda can be accused of recklessly exposing students to nudity.”

So the First Amendment protects religious belief but it does not protect facts? By now the world should realize that whatever First Amendment these groups are citing, it is NOT the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Because THAT First Amendment most definitely states that the government shall not establish religion. Period. And it guarantees freedom of speech for everyone, not just jack-booted religious thugs trying to force their religious beliefs down the throats of others. It cannot be applied “as wanted” to those things they want read and withheld from the things they don’t like. That is not how it works, and it is to be hoped that Kansas voters will soon remind them of that. If not, you know the courts will.

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32 Replies to “Kansas Republicans Want to Outlaw Any Free Speech They Don’t Like”

  1. “Makes you wonder how these people deal with all the pornographic material in their Bibles, both violent and sexual.”

    I don’t wonder at all. They’re cafeteria xians, and most of them have never read the wholly babble.

  2. I think what it comes down to is that conservative leadership long ago realized that the only way they can get votes (apart from voter suppression, unconstitutional gerrymandering, “poll watchers” to intimidate voters and hacking the Ohio electronic voting results) is to keep the public as uneducated and misinformed as possible. Numerous studies have confirmed the link between low education and intelligence, and support for conservative ideals. Studies have also shown that Fox viewers are LESS informed than even people who watch NO news source on a regular basis. The more people are exposed to facts, the less likely they are to support conservatives. Thus, the present push to ban facts from our education system.

  3. As their numbers continue to dwindle these pious self righteous right wing zealots will continue to lash out and become more extreme. Like the neanderthals they are a dying breed. Oops can I use the word breed? I would really like to see whats in their closets for everyone has skeletons.

  4. “Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.” Sen. Barry Goldwater

    Thought this was an appropriate conversation from a republican

  5. I think you’re right. I have a strong feeling something is changing in Kansas because the religious right has been very comfortable there since the ’90s. I think they feel threatened either from something happening within the state or right outside of it. This legislation, as well, as the anti-gay bill that was proposed right before this, is at an extreme to which the religious right in Kansas has never gone.

    I seriously hope this wakes up the rest of the state that has quietly tolerated these crazies for so long.

  6. “Shawnee Mission district has removed the poster “pending a detailed review of the material.””

    All I see is a bunch of old men with long beards wearing robes muttering as they pore over the poster with microscopic lens

    In 1970 the future of the world looked to be fresh and open. Today we have republicans supported by seemingly Islamic hardliners trying to run our lives.

    Keep the children dumb and blind. Next parents will have to get permission from the Sharia board in Kansas to have procreative sex

  7. I like Mr. Goldwater predicted long ago that the Christians in this nation would try to seize power and inflict a Theocracy on this free nation. Every day that passes we see that the Reich Wing is more and more the 4th Reich.

  8. So once again, the GOP proves that having the government interfere in your life is ONLY ok when they have something they want to control. But every other reason is bad. Hypocrites.

  9. It can be summed up in one sign. It was at the courthouse when the discrimination bill against gays was rejected.

    No other sign expresses so succinctly the exasperated attitude of thoughtful Kansans.

    “Will you stop making us all look like assholes?!”

  10. ..i’m by no means a defender of fundamentalism, but, I don’t understand why this sign was necessary. who the hell doesn’t know all that stuff instinctively? liberal overreach is as bad as fundamentalist overreach. just sayin’.

  11. The city council voted to restrict access to the books if 300 people signed a petition asking for the restriction. Another group of citizens filed suit after the books were taken out of the children’s section and put on a locked shelf in the adult area of the library.

    One question: is there any counter point to the process? I mean, what happens if 301 people sign a position demanding the books be taken out of the adult area? There’s no reasonable defense of having a minority decide the moral sensibilities of the entire community when taxes collected from all citizens were used.
    This is only one argument but it does cut to the heart of the problem of religion imposing its opinions of everybody. I suspect that these people do NOT represent the community as a whole.

  12. Next you are going to see them advocate burning books. Let’s have a good old book burning in the town square. Their patented theme is “persecution” hell they invented it. Yet when minorities or the LGBT community, or anyone asks if they can have some of that equal rights stuff the right wing christians jump out with the P card. Unbelievable.

  13. So, it is illegal for a 25 yr old male to send these same words to a 15 yr female (Sexting); and it would be illegal for a teacher to engage in sexual activity with a minor student; but you feel it is okay for a teacher to print out/ post these same words to the general population of the school ( to include maybe some students as young as 13-14 yrs old, freshmen in the hallways )? Sorry, but your contradictory ideas are confusing.

  14. 13-14 yo kids are as sexually active today as 17-18 year olds were when I graduated in 1968. Yes, they already know these words

  15. What you, this website, and most of the other posters on this site fail to comprehend, or choose to ignore as the case may be, is that there is a huge difference between ultra-conservative extremists and mainstream republicans. For example, I am a conservative who advocates gay rights, pro-choice, marijuana decriminalization, separation of church and state, etc. Believe it or not I’m even an atheist. We do exist.

    Would it be fair for me to assume that all liberals are lazy, welfare sponging, hippies who are only concerned with maximizing entitlement checks so they can stay home watching court t.v. while the rest of us work?

  16. I am very well aware that “there is a huge difference between ultra-conservative extremists and mainstream republicans”. If you notice, my post does not even use the word “republican”. It is the conservative branch of the Republican Party that is responsible for the destructive obstructionism that has been used for the last five and a half years to try to block anything the black guy in the White House wants to do, even when it is on issues where they previously supported the President’s position. If you really “advocate gay rights, pro-choice, marijuana decriminalization, separation of church and state, etc.” then by definition you are not a conservative. To say “ultra-conservative extremists” is a redundancy, as a conservative is by definition an extremist. You sound like a moderate Republican, and that is no more a conservative than a progressive liberal is.

  17. I don’t lump everyone into broad generalizations, and no, I would not like it if you did. As a rational “conservative” (in quotes, because labels like “conservative” and “liberal” have lost all of their meaning, as far as I am concerned), I do expect you and others like you to raise your voices and oust those who have hijacked your Republican Party and used it to foist extremism on our country.

    Thank you, in advance.

  18. It isn’t the use of certain words that constitutes “sexting”. If a 25 year old sent a text to a 15 year old that said “today in class we learned that oral sex is a form of sexual activity” that text would not in any way be improper.

    Your argument fails (deliberately?) to consider context and purpose and simply seeks to censor factual information. It’s like arguing that a course in gun safety encourages violence.

    It is truly difficult to understand how people can advocate ignorance over learning, and censorship over the free exchange of information. If these kids have responsible parents, there is no reason to fear them becoming educated. It seems the biggest problem the folks in Kansas are having is that there are too many ignorant adults, and they are determined that the next generation remain as ignorant as they are.

  19. Overreach??? On one side you have liberals (and moderates, and probably the bulk of mainstream Republicans) who want to provide factual information as part of an educational system. On the other side you have conservatives who want to abrogate the First Amendment and prevent children from getting a comprehensive education.

    Only one side is “overreaching”. This is the typical scenario – conservatives take an extreme and unsupportable position, and then call anyone who takes a less extreme position “extremists” for not agreeing with the conservatives’ own extremism. This is just like the Right Wing Media’s constant manufacturing of a false “both sides do it” argument on any issue. Global climate change, for instance. When 99% of the experts say something exists, and a few religious zealots say it doesn’t, that is not a “balanced debate.”

  20. The argument is where we draw the line. Liberals imply that the line is where they say it is today.. but suppose someone crazier than you wants to take free speech further and allow students their constitutional rights to expression and let them use words like ni$$er and fa$$ot any time they want? Whats the problem? Does THEIR behavior offend you and you want the right top restrict it? If they simply use the terms not directed aty an individual whats the problem? You might say it cauaes harm, well the aids epeidemic is some factual harm too.

    If you want your kids to read certain books then buy them. If you want to tell your 8 year old anal sex is fun tell them. And if someone wants to tell their kids that gays are people with a birth DEFECT that is their right because just like global warming it is a scientific FACT.

    The law may need some work but if you look at every battle the progressivies have won and the results it is easy to see the damage it caused.

  21. The AFA has a long history of promoting censorship. It was one of four right-wing groups that sicced the FCC on Howard Stern. AFA founder Donald Wildmon hates the entertainment industry and believes it is controlled by Jews. In the most extreme case, two letter bombs were sent to the president of ABC during an AFA crusade to ban “NYPD Blue”. Naturally the liberal media treat these religious bullies with kid gloves.

    Sinclair Lewis wrote long ago, “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.” Folks, it is time to expose this measure as fascist.

  22. I’m old enough (60 yrs, thank you) to remember when there were serving, caring, and responsive Congressmen and Senators who would step back into their own communities and states and try to talk sense into people. Failing that, they could knock the right heads together and keep their constituents from all looking like fools and half-wits.

    But we no longer have a representative Congress. No one in politics cares where their vote comes from as along as it comes. Sure, people are going to propose stupid things. There are many people who are simply stupid.

    But when today’s legislature becomes involved, and with the Supreme Court made up from circus clowns, ambulance-chasers, mutes, and mere political appointees, we as a people must change direction–and fast. Like the next time you vote.

    Thank God that at 18 I had enough sense to register as an Independent. I’ve proudly voted for Demos and Repubs all my life. But no more.

    Libertarian. Read about them. Learn about what they s…

  23. Too late. Red States already lead the nation in teenage pregnancies. They just ignore that little fact (nasty facts) and continue to push abstinence only, no contraception, no sex education & no abortions (except for their kids).

  24. So, I guess free speech is only in play when it is moderated by Democrats, and my reply isn’t considered free speech because it doesn’t agree with the rest of the comments on this site. Bunch of hypocrites.

  25. No you are an idiot that’s why it wasn’t posted. BTW read the Constitution and learn the definition of free speech

  26. Tom, you have free speech. However when you are on others property they can determine what speech is acceptable. You do not have the right to free speech wherever you are. The only thing the constitution says about free speech is that the government cant interfere with it. However on other peoples property they can.

    RWNJ sites moderate the same as anyone else does.

    BTW tom, If obama was creating laws with executive orders, Darrel the Cheap IRS scandal creator Issa would be all over him. Crickets.

  27. msybert: What YOU fail to realize is that you sound just like Fox trying to split hairs between their “hard news” and “opinion”.

    The fact is, “YOU” let the fringy extremists define you when you thought it useful and convenient to use them to bash the left and stir up animosity against Barak Obama. Now you’re paying for it. Tough titties.

    I’ll care about your “plight” just as soon as I see this “majority” of moderate, non-extremist conservatives taking back the narrative. Until then, you don’t exist.

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