Now is the time to sit down and pay attention, Kansans. What state do we want?
Kansas Reflector welcomes opinion pieces from writers who share our goal of expanding the conversation about how public policy affects the daily lives of people across our state. Laurel Burchfield is the Associate Director of Mainstream Coalition, where she champions common sense politics.
“We strongly believe in the American Way, which represents the separation of religion and state. Naturally, we must live out our beliefs within the political state as private citizens, but we do not attempt to use the political system of the state to impose our belief system on our pluralistic neighbors. – Bob Meneilly to The Village Church, August 15, 1993
A popular phrase found on T-shirts, bumper stickers, and memes reads, “If you’re not mad, then you’re not paying attention.”
Well, everyone I know right now is pissed off as we continue to process recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings – including the assault on reproductive rights with the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the potential dismantling of LGBTQ equality that falls on the pike based on Justice Clarence Thomas’ written agreement and the broadening of the interpretation of the Second Amendment and the relaxation of gun laws immediately after two mass shootings in New York and Texas. And that only scratches the surface of the things we should all be angry about as the court repeatedly violates one of our most fundamental freedoms by breaking down the wall between religion and government.
We are also afraid, because even if the Supreme Court takes this country into new and dangerous territory, we also have a roadmap for what comes next. Let me paint this picture for you:
- If the August 2 constitutional amendment passes, the Kansas legislature will ban abortions in Kansas. It is not fear-based speculation, but knowledge based on years of legislation that has been introduced and supported by the majority party, including a bill introduced this year that would have criminalized all abortions with just a small amount of exception for acts necessary to save a mother’s life during an ectopic pregnancy. The so-called “Value Them Both” campaign spreads a lot of misleading information about what exactly this amendment does. The wording of the ballot does not mention the ban on abortion. But let’s be very clear about what the ultimate goal is. A yes gives immediate power to the Kansas Legislature to pass a law banning abortion, and that is exactly what they will do.
- The United States Supreme Court will continue to tear down the wall separating religion from government. Again, this is happening right now with recent rulings that prioritize religious rights — and especially Christian rights — over the First Amendment. In Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, the Court sided with a public school teacher who led prayer at football games and overturned 60 years of precedent that kept mandatory prayer out of public schools. There is no reason to believe that this conservative court of judges who bring their own religious convictions to the bench will stop hearing and ultimately deciding cases that erode the establishment’s constitutional protection. government of religion.
There is no reason to believe that this conservative court of judges who bring their own religious convictions to the bench will stop hearing and ultimately deciding cases that erode the establishment’s constitutional protection. government of religion.
- Public education will collapse as private and religious schools are favored and receive public funds from the Kansas Legislature. We fought for years to keep taxpayers’ money away from vouchers that would go to religious schools, but hardline lawmakers continue to push this agenda. Now they have the backing of another US Supreme Court decision (Carson v. Makin) finding that states cannot stop public money from going to religious schools. This is alarming not only because private schools obviously do not always meet the same standards and strict oversight as public schools, but also because religious schools can, and some do, legally discriminate against certain students. Specifically, they are not required to accept or respect LGBTQ students or students of different religions. When – and at this point, it’s more like when and not if – The Kansas Legislature passes a law establishing vouchers for religious schools, it will be state-sponsored and funded discrimination.
- States will be both limited and empowered to pass laws governing their residents, as long as those states represent a certain extremist point of view. Congress may have passed the first bipartisan gun control legislation in decades, but the court ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen signaled that there are rules very specific and confusing regarding a state’s authority to enact laws affecting an individual’s rights and freedoms. Apparently, an individual’s right to possess and publicly carry a firearm almost completely escapes state regulation, but the state should have full authority to make decisions regarding that same individual’s bodily autonomy. . As long as extremists continue to seize and wield power in state government, we will continue to see this hypocrisy in the rights that should exist and who can make these decisions.
Are you still angry? Are you paying attention? Because this next part is important.
All politicians will tell you the same thing – Kansans are practical people who want common sense policies for our state. The difference lies in what is considered “common sense”.
Do we want a state where, as Mainstream Coalition founder Bob Meneilly predicted almost 30 years ago, religious extremists dictate what is good for everyone based narrowly on their religious beliefs? Or do we believe in the common sense principles of separation of religion and government and the election of individuals who put the interests of the Kansans before ideology and outside influence?
Now is the time to start asking candidates where they stand on the issues you care about and start holding them accountable for their words and actions.
Through its opinion section, the Kansas Reflector works to amplify the voices of people who are affected by public policies or excluded from public debate. Find information, including how to submit your own review, here.