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Ill. panel balks at measure linked to Scientology

- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 11, 2011

SPRINGFIELD, ILL. (AP) - Not even the voice of Bart Simpson could convince Illinois lawmakers to approve a resolution aimed at teaching character in public schools because of its link to the Church of Scientology.

The resolution endorsed a program called Good Choices as an example of how to teach morals and values. The program is based on "The Way to Happiness" by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

Actress Nancy Cartwright, a Scientologist who also provides Bart's voice on the U.S. version of "The Simpsons," testified before a House education committee that the program has "nothing to do with religion."

She said it stresses moral concepts such as respecting others' religion, living up to promises and treating other people the way you want to be treated.

"This book is not part of any religious doctrine," Cartwright said.

Opponents contend the Good Choices Program is closely associated with Scientology beliefs and promoting it in schools would violate the separation of church and state.

Rob Sherman, a Buffalo Grove atheist activist, said the Good Choices Program book says on its cover that it is based on "The Way to Happiness." He said students could easily search the Internet for that title and discover a link to Scientology, which he said would be akin to advocating a religious text in public schools.

The resolution sponsored by Rep. Dan Burke, D-Chicago, lists Good Choices as one of several successful programs for teaching character. It commends Good Choices' "common sense guidelines covering specific tools to help children evaluate situations and make good decisions that will improve life for themselves and others."

Burke acknowledged the link between Scientology and Good Choices was stronger than he realized. Burke said he would rewrite the resolution and bring it up again later.

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The resolution is HR254.

Online: http://www.ilga.

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