| News |

Religious Bill of Rights unfair to any religion but Dave Schultheis's, says Rabbi Steven Foster

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

Earlier this week, the state legislature spent many long hours hashing over Senator/Shmuck emeritus Dave Schultheis's latest brainstorm: a "Religious Bill of Rights."

As Education News Colorado noted, the measure would have allowed "high school students and parents of younger students to opt out of classes for religious reasons, permitted teachers to opt out of teaching material that conflicted with their sensibilities and made school board members and employees personally liable in lawsuits over the bill of rights." Read it here.

Testifying against the measure was Rabbi Steven Foster, who doesn't mince words when it comes to sketching out his objections. "There's nothing good in it from a Jewish or minority-religious perspective," he says. "The bill doesn't take into account that it ought to be protecting minorities, not putting minorities in a strange position."

Among the things that troubled Foster about Schultheis's proposal:

"Number one, he short-lined the bill right before he testified, so nobody had a chance to look at it. In other words, instead of putting forth the bill as he originally intended, with all these specifics about the bill of rights, he wanted to send it to the Attorney General for comments about what the legal ramifications of it were and how it could be implemented. That convinces me it had nothing to do with his real agenda."

Moreover, "from a Jewish perspective, it's not a good idea," he continues. "This is not a Christian country. It's a country made up mostly of Christians, but it's a secular country. When I said that, [Schultheis] objected, and so did many of his colleagues as well. They would like to see this established as a Christian country -- there's no question about that in my mind. But it's a secular country."

In the end, Foster notes, the judiciary committee to which the measure was presented "PI-ed it" -- meaning it postponed indefinitely future debate, effectively killing it. But that doesn't mean Foster is resting easy.

"I worry about where the right wing is headed with all this," he says. "They would like prayer in public schools, nativity scenes, and if teachers want to teach the Bible to them, they'd like to let them do that -- and that's not a very good thing for us.

"This is nothing new -- they've been donig this kind of thing for years," Foster maintains. "One of his other bills is an anti-abortion bill that tries to define human life starting at conception. And that's all very nice, but my religion doesn't teach that. Most religions don't teach that. So this is all part of the same piece for them. We like the wall of separation between church and state to be very high."

As opposed to nonexistent.

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.