A proposed Florida bill filed last week called House Bill 195: The Study of The Bible and Religions, would allow schools to offer religious studies as an elective for students. The classes wouldn’t be required, but it would be offered to high school students in grades 9th through 12th if they decide to take the course.
The bill was filed by Rep. Kimberly Daniels, a Democrat from District 14 in Jacksonville. The elective Bible studies classes would include lessons from the New Testament and the Old Testament of the Bible, along with Hebrew scriptures. The school would still be required to follow state and federal laws to “maintain neutrality” and would have to accommodate all the diverse religious views of the students.
The proposed bill also reads, “A course offered pursuant to this section may not endorse, favor, or promote or disfavor or show hostility toward a particular religion, religious perspective, or nonreligious faith.” If passed, it would go into effect on July 1st.
As of today, such courses are allowed to be offered in various schools, but it is not mandatory for districts to offer them. Several other states in the United States including Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Texas have implemented a similar mandate offering comparative religious classes. Many argue these classes should be offered since the “Bible is a 2,000-year-old document” and has historical significance on how our nation was formed.
This isn’t the only bill involving religion that was proposed. In 2018, lawmakers passed a bill to get the phrase “In God We Trust” displayed at every Florida public schools. This week, North Dakota legislators also provided a bill allowing public high schools to offer the elective as part of its social studies curriculum. Lawmakers argue that no religious text should be cured from being taught at any school district, even it relates to philosophical or historical influences in history.
Unfortunately, Republican lawmakers received heavy criticism for the proposal, especially from The American Civil Liberties Union, who called it “unconstitutional.” The bill, which was amended, said that out of the 22 units that are required to graduate high school in North Dakota, of the three units for social studies, one and a half unit can be replaced by Bible studies. The ACLU claims the courses need to bring other viewpoints into the mix for it to actually be constitutional.
Indiana recently jumped on board with the “Education Matters” Bill, authored by State Sen. Dennis Kruse, which would require charter and public schools to display the U.S. and Indian state flag in every classroom, along with the “In God We Trust” motto. Surprisingly, this caused President Donald Trump to tweet his support of bills seeking Bible literacy in classrooms.
As of January 2019, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Virginia, and West Virginia have introduced litigation of the classes. But, the debate as to whether the classes should actually be eligible for students is still under water since critics have reportedly stated the classes may violate the separation of church and state.
Safe to say several Twitter users we not too happy with the President’s statement, after he identifies as a Presbyterian, but doesn’t support “religion freedom.” Some pointed out verses that the President “should familiarize himself with”, seeing how the Bible calls on people to welcome strangers. Which is something that Trump’s critics believe his immigration policies have failed to do so.
What do you think? Do you agree with the decision to implement Bible literacy classes as an elective for students?