Testimony against HB1255 – The Faithful Response

Rev. Heidi offered the following testimony on our behalf yesterday to the House Education Committee in response to HB1255 and in keeping with our faithful pledge for equity and education.

Dear Members of the House Education Committee,

Thank you for receiving my testimony.

I write today on behalf of the New Hampshire Council of Churches.  NHCC is an ecumenical, Christian organization representing nine denominations of Churches across the granite state.  We pride ourselves on working across lines of difference for the common good of all Granite Staters. 

It is in that spirit that I come before you today on our behalf to ask you to vote HB1255 Inexpedient to Legislate. 

HB1255 is dangerous, harmful, and just plain bad policy for New Hampshire.  Our teachers have worked tirelessly in impossible circumstances over these last two years.  They have adapted to constantly changing, and challenging circumstances to educate and care for students statewide.  They have adapted curricula, teaching methods, and more to show up for our students in as many ways as they can.  They deserve our gratitude, and our support.

HB1255 threatens their ability to do that work robustly and well.  There is a grave lack of clarity around what constitutes “ideoloogy.”  As currently written, the bill allows for teachers to be penalized, and targeted for a wide variety of content.  Who will decide what constitutes “any doctrine or theory promoting a negative account or representation of the founding and history of the United States of America in New Hampshire public schools which does not include the worldwide context of now outdated and discouraged practices?”  This language is dangerously vague.

The New Hampshire Council of Churches has been engaged in a wide variety of difficult conversations across our state.  We have worked with churches and clergy to engage conversations about race, racism, and how to be better anti-racist allies.  We hold a seat on the NH Holocaust and Genocide Commission.  We continue to work with our churches and clergy to support public education, and our teachers in their individual communities.  We have seen what is possible when we rise to difficult conversations rather than backing away from them.  It is not easy to face head on the realities of systemic racism in our founding, our state, or our nation.  But it is a moral and ethical imperative that we must.  Only then can we grow together toward the more perfect union that our founders sought.

I trust our public school teachers to teach this history and information in a rich and robust context that helps our students more fully understand themselves, and one another.  What, after all, is the goal of public education if not that?  As a religious leader, I believe deeply in the power of truth-telling, and want to empower our teachers to tell the truth.  Nothing more, and nothing less.  After all, the truth will set us free. I fear instead that this bill seeks only to silence, divide, and punish some of our most dedicated public servants.

On behalf of the New Hampshire Council of Churches, I invite you vote no on HB1255.  It is the faithful response.  Thank you.

Warmest Regards,

The Rev. Heidi Carrington Heath