A couple of months ago, we learned about an Idaho bill that would allow teachers to use the Bible in their classrooms when they felt it would enhance the lesson. Even though that was already legal, this legislation specifically said the Bible could be used in astronomy, biology, geology, world geography, and archaeology classes… which raised the question of why the hell that would ever happen.
After a lot of public outcry, the science classes were stricken from the bill, but it still didn’t make much sense. It’s not like there was a need to bring up the Bible in world geography or archaeology, after all. Comparative religion or English literature? Maybe. But nothing that dealt with facts or evidence.
With only Republican Governor Butch Otter standing in the way of the bill becoming a law, it seemed like a foregone conclusion.
That’s why it came as a bit of a shock yesterday when Otter vetoed the bill:
In the veto’s accompanying letter Otter said he respected the Bible, but the measure would result in costly litigation for Idaho’s public schools. He said the measure directly contradicts Idaho’s Constitution.
Well, I’ll be damned. A Republican who gets separation of church and state… or at least one who cares enough about the taxpayers to avoid possible litigation down the road.
Remember: Bibles can still be used in school when it’s appropriate. If English teachers want to discuss literary allusions, or mythology teachers want to compare the Great Flood stories of the Old Testament and the Epic of Gilgamesh, they’re free to do so. The only thing this bill would have done is offer some cover to teachers who wanted to use the Bible in classes where it had no business coming up — and the Idaho Constitution (not to mention the U.S. version) would have prohibited that. Furthermore, the legislation specification mentioned the Bible as opposed to any other holy book; if that’s not a government endorsement of Christianity, what is?
It’s a smart and welcome move by the governor. Not that the logic of his decision will make any sense to Christian Right groups that never let common sense stand in the way of their persecution narrative. Stand by for their complaints.