Written by Don Byrd
If you follow this blog (and why wouldn’t you?!), you know that legislators in a handful of states have introduced bills related to religion in the public school curriculum. In Florida, for example, proposed legislation would require school districts to offer a Bible literacy elective. In Indiana, a bill requires school districts that offer comparative religion classes to include a study of the Bible.
It is certainly lawful to teach *about* religion in a neutral academic setting, it’s essential that such classes not proselytize, or be framed in a way that promotes a particular religious viewpoint. USAToday reports on the “wave” of new proposals for Bible-related classes, and quotes the Baptist Joint Committee’s Executive Director Amanda Tyler urging lawmakers to approach such proposals with caution:
As for the Bible literacy proposals, Tyler of the Baptist Joint Committee said that lawmakers who have busy legislative calendars may sign on to bills that look innocuous but may further a troubling agenda.
“Anything that might send a message to our children that you have to be a Christian to be a full American is extremely problematic,” she said.
Meanwhile, President Trump tweeted his support today for the idea of studying the Bible in public schools, writing “Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!”
It’s not clear what he’s referencing, but we certainly should not “turn back” to the days of required Bible recitations and religious instruction in public schools, which have been ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. As Tyler suggests, proposals to introduce public school courses about the cultural and historical significance of the Bible should not be rushed into head first. The details and purpose of the curriculum should be approached with care. What agenda is being promoted? Is it educational? Or religious?