Nancy Cartwright, voice of Bart Simpson and a prominent member of the Church of Scientology, appeared before a legislative hearing at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield (!) to stress that her Scientology-inspired character-education program is totally secular and should be taught to schoolchildren.
The Illinois School Code requires “character education,” defined as “the teaching of respect, responsibility, fairness, [etc.]” to be taught in schools. A House Resolution filed by Rep. Daniel Burke (D-Chicago), recommended several programs and clubs that satisfy that requirement, including Cartwright’s “Good Choices” program, of which the bill specifically “encourages its use and the use of similar programs by educators, coaches, mentors, and other community service leaders.”
Cartwright freely admits “Good Choices” is based on “The Way to Happiness,” a 1980 self-help booklet by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, which teaches important lessons like “Do Not Murder” (precept 8) and “Don’t Do Anything Illegal” (precept 9). While Hubbard’s tract is advertised as non-religious, Newsweek noted that it “uses key words and concepts taken directly from Scientology’s religious lexicon.” Cartwright is a big promoter of the booklet; through her charity, she distributed a million copies of it to the San Fernando Valley in 2007.
After controversy arose over her program’s connections to Scientology, Rep. Burke said he would be removing references to “Good Choices” from the bill. During a hearing yesterday, atheist activist Robert Sherman argued that teaching the program in public schools would violate the the separation of church and state, while Cartwright “pursed her lips and shook her head.” Cartwright denied that her program promoted Scientology and insisted she was “not purporting that the religion of Scientology be taught in schools.”
Naturally, she trotted out her Bart Simpson voice at least twice, opening her testimony in Bart’s voice and then again by popular request, for an adoring audience of politicians:
[M]any on the House panel were clearly star-struck by Cartwright’s appearance. Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago) recorded her testimony on his cell phone, while others sought to have pictures taken with her afterwards.
Then, Burke interjected a request that Cartwright break into Bart Simpson one last time, which the actress honored in her character’s distinctive voice: “I’m outta here.”