First Amendment? Not in Mississippi

Texas isn’t the only state that is constitutionally challenged. In fact, Mississippi is giving us a run for our money when it comes to (willful?) ignorance about what the First Amendment means.

Earlier this summer, our friends at Advocates for Youth brought us the disturbing tale of an abstinence-only rally/evangelical prayer meeting sponsored by the state of Mississippi:

In May, the state of Mississippi threw a state-funded abstinence-only rally for students where they were told the value of not having sex until marriage (including a chant that went “Stop! Don’t touch me there! This is my no-no square!”). That in itself is legal, but not when the rally itself is from start to finish a blatant attempt at proselytizing students in Christianity.

The ACLU just brought forth a lawsuit against the state of Mississippi last week for violating the First Amendment, which prohibits the government from promoting one religion over another.

(You can read about the rally — and watch video clips — here. Suffice it to say, this rally didn’t simply brush up against the church-state boundary. It trampled right over it.)

Now Mississippi Senior Pastor Lt. Governor Phil Bryant weighs in with local news reporter on the lawsuit, but apparently under the impression that he was really speaking to a Sunday school class at his church:

“I was so disappointed that the ACLU has decided that we don’t need to tell young women in the state of Mississippi about our faith; we don’t need to explain to them that abstinence, we believe, is related to our faithful Christianity beliefs.”

(Pause to let that sink in — or to weep quietly.) Let’s count the problems with this statement:

  1. Government telling young people “about our faith” and “faithful Christianity beliefs” is a little something the Founders liked to call “establishment of religion.” And they weren’t too fond of the idea of government telling citizens what to believe.
  2. Did you notice that the lieutenant governor believes it’s only the “young women in the state of Mississippi” who need to be educated? Sadly, this “boys will be boys” attitude is not uncommon in abstinence-only programs (as TFN revealed in our report earlier this year), and it has the effect of unfairly burdening young women with responsibility for controlling the behavior of males.
  3. One more time for the record: the ACLU didn’t decide that government can’t establish a religion or coerce belief. The Constitution settles that issue!

Watch the video for yourself. And if you are so inclined, say a little prayer for the young people of Mississippi who live in the state with the highest teen birth rate in the nation (ever higher than in Texas!), but have leaders who think the best thing the government can do is preach to students.


H/T Amplify Your Voice

14 thoughts on “First Amendment? Not in Mississippi

  1. “say a little prayer for the young people of Mississippi”

    Hear me, oh Flying Spaghetti Monster, and use your noodly goodness to instill in these kids the knowledge that those unnamed parts of their anatomy aren’t actually square.


  2. Mississippi is the stereotypical deep south. They have never learned to separate church and state. In most schools they still start the day with prayer. No one knows about it because no one conmplains. They can get away with that because they are almost all in small towns with a couple of churches and everyone is the same religion.

    The politicians are not completely stupid in Mississippi. They know what they did is unconstitutional. But it is very good politics in Mississippi. The Lt. Gov. and other politicians will gain more votes if he supports the rally and fights the ACLU.

    Aside from what ever their personal religious beliefs may be, their actions are for political gain, nothing more. And the kid’s be damned. If they really cared about teen pregnancy and disease they would provide legitimate sex education.

  3. Well, I have always wondered why abstinence-only sex education cannot be stopped on purely First Amendment grounds. While it is true that abstaining will prevent pregnancy, it is also pretty demonstratively true that the driver behind its adoption and implementation is purely religious. As I have told you before, I actually heard a portion of a speech where one of the leaders of the abstinence-only movement told the crowd that its PRIMARY PURPOSE is sin prevention and pregnancy prevention is a happy side-effect. Sin prevention is fine, but it occurs to me that lying about it is not. Even worse, implementing a pregnancy prevention program that does not work is itself morally irresponsible, and it leads to far more abortions that it otherwise would. Effective birth control is the pill to prevent abortions—and prevent them in very large numbers. Duh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Note that he singles out young girls. GIRLS. So, girls can’t have a sex life and must be abstinent until marriage, but not boys? So he’s a misogynist and an idiot.

  5. Here’s from the Rachel Maddow show last night
    ( )

    MADDOW: Time for a magic map trick. Ready? Watch this.

    Here are the three states with the highest number of young women getting vaccinated for HPV. About three out of every four American women will eventually get HPV. It‘s the virus that is the leading cause of cervical cancer. Now, unlike other types of cancer, cervical cancer can largely be prevented by this vaccine.

    So, these three state are doing the best in the country at administering that vaccine on a relatively wide basis. They‘re doing a good job with that part of health care. Good.

    Now, here are the three states that are doing the worst. This is where the lowest proportion of teenage girls are getting vaccinated for HPV. So, here, one very effective form of health care is relatively lacking.

    When that data about those states came out today, it got us here thinking. We wondered what other states are really sort of blowing it on women‘s reproductive health care. It turns out—here‘s the teenage pregnancy stats.

    Here are the states with the most teenagers who are now also moms. In these states, more than 15 percent of babies are born prematurely. And here are the states where the babies are born with the lowest birth weight. If you want to map the infant mortality rate, here are the nation‘s worst three state.

    Now, magic map trick. If you put all of this data into a big computing machine—which states are offenders in all the above categories? Which states are the worst of all of these worlds? They are:

    Mississippi and South Carolina. South Carolina, the Palmetto State, also home of lawmakers who perhaps more than in any other state have staked their reason for being on preventing health reform.


    SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: The reason you‘re not going to have a government-run health care pass the Senate is because it would be devastating for this country.

    SEN. JIM DEMINT ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: If we‘re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his waterloo. It will break him.

    REP. JOE WILSON ®, SOUTH CAROLINA: I will not be muzzled. I will speak up, and speak loudly against this risky plan.


    MADDOW: More than 20 percent of South Carolinians do not have health insurance. Teen pregnancy rates are among the highest in the country. They are among the worst at getting young women vaccinated for a nearly preventable cancer. Infant mortality—among the highest in the country.

    If anyone might want to get a little help with the disaster that is health care in their states, you‘d think it would be these guys. But they‘re the ones who are fighting hardest against it.

  6. It’s strictly political. Mississippi doesn’t care about teen pregnancy. The politicians just want votes and things like this are ploitically popular.

    The politicians know that its unconstitutional and that if sued only the state, not themselves, will be required to pay a judgment. If a judgment was to come out of the politicians own pockets then they wouldn’t be doing illegal things like this. That would stop it before it got started.

    Again, it is only about votes on election day. Nothing more. They don’t care about teen pregnancy.

  7. Maybe not LRA. I think he may have something else in mind for the boys, something along the lines of Soylent Green. This is an actual product that is sold by Heinz and made around Christmas time in England:

    and a recipe for Christmas if anyone would like to try it. Christmas will be here soon:

  8. “[I]ncluding a chant that went “Stop! Don’t touch me there! This is my no-no square!”

    Those youngsters are instructed to point to their heads when they say this, right?

  9. Dang it Charles, there you go again. I’m all set for my Saturday morning news reading and I end up spitting my coffee all over my laptop. At least my wife knows now what to get me for my birthday next month….

  10. Pineyman:

    Comedy is good for the spirit–if not the laptop. I am actually giving consideration to making a batch of “spotted dick” this Thanksgiving or Christmas. The recipe that I posted is not the spot on British delicacy. The real recipe requires suet, so I am trying to find a true British recipe. The next hard thing to do in my town is probably to find a grocer that actually sells suet. Something tells me that this is not a recipe that would be approved for a low cholesterol diet, but I am not on a low cholesterol diet.

  11. Charles –

    Try asking for the beef fat from a meat cutter at your local grocery store. When I worked in a grocery store we actually gave it away. Of course, that was 30 years ago…

    BTW – if you have a blog, I’d love the URL. I enjoy reading your posts here. I’ll warn you though, I’m a northeast liberal…..

  12. They are anatomically challenged as well. *grin*

    Here are some pleasant facts about “abstinence-only” Texas, all facts we can be very proud of:

    * Texas has one of the highest rates of births and repeat births to teens in the country.

    * 60% of teen mothers fail to graduate from high school.

    * Every ten minutes a teen in Texas becomes pregnant.

    * Over a 13-year period, teen births in Texas are estimated to cost taxpayers $15.1 billion.

    Now that last line is particularly interesting. These right wing-nuts CLAIM to be concerned about spending. So, if they want no abortions and no birth control pills, how then do they justify costing us $15.1 billion?

    Answer: They’re using the same circular “logic” as their argument of NO SPENDING yet want granny hooked up to life support forever. Note they lack the honesty to suggest who PAYS for granny.

    These people aren’t just evil; they’re unbelievably STUPID!