A bill that would strip the University of Tennessee of $100,000 a year in state funding for certain diversity and inclusion operations began advancing in a House subcommittee Tuesday -- but on a separate track than a similar effort underway in the state Senate. House Bill 2248 as originally filed by Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Johnson City, would strip all state funding from UT's Office for Diversity and Inclusion. But Van Huss entered the House Education Subcommittee on Tuesday afternoon with an amendment that would take $100,000 a year for the next three years away from UT and use it instead to pay for decals bearing the national motto "In God We Trust" on law enforcement vehicles.
First up from the God Machine this week is an unusual piece of state legislation in Tennessee, which would cut the budget of the state's largest university in order to finance "In God We Trust" stickers. The Knoxville News Sentinel reported this week:
Under the proposal, the university would also be prohibited from using state funds "to promote the use of gender-neutral pronouns, Sex Week or to promote or demote a religious holiday."
Though a related measure is reportedly moving forward in the state Senate without the provision related to "In God We Trust" decals, the Tennessee House education panel, led by a Republican majority, approved both the amendment and the bill.
Once in a while, we're reminded about the creative and unexpected ways in which the culture war keeps changing.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* A controversy in New Jersey worth watching: "The U.S. Department of Justice has opened a civil rights investigation into the decision by Bernards Township authorities to deny a Muslim community's application to build a mosque in the township, a spokesman for the New Jersey U.S. Attorney's office in Newark has confirmed."
* A busy season for faith-based films: "A pack of movies with religious themes is hitting theaters this Easter season after years of the genre being relegated to DVD shelves at big-box stores. Producers are hoping their migration to the multiplex will be helped by Lenten enthusiasm and guerrilla marketing by church leaders."
* For Christian home-schoolers, this was a pretty big deal: 'Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles has lost its membership in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, which gives accreditation to leading Christian nonprofit organizations."
* A provocative walk along the church-state line: "The Christian Educators Association International, an organization that sees the nation's public schools as 'the largest single mission field in America,' aims to show Christian teachers how to live their faith -- and evangelize in public schools -- without running afoul of the Constitution's prohibition on the government establishing or promoting any particular religion."
* An important criminal case in Pennsylvania: "Three former leaders of a Franciscan religious order in Pennsylvania were charged with felonies on Tuesday for allowing a friar who was a known sexual predator to repeatedly work with children, including as a high school athletic trainer who massaged students naked, and pull some out of class for what a grand jury report called 'private physical therapy sessions.' Tuesday's complaint was the first time members of a Roman Catholic religious order have been charged with aiding an abuser."