Last week, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed into law a bill that would allow elective Bible courses in public schools.
There’s nothing wrong with that on the surface. If you want to teach the Bible as literature, for example, it makes a lot of sense. There are references (subtle or not) to the Bible in everything from Shakespeare to Harry Potter.
If you want to teach it as American History, however, things get a little shakier.
“It really did set the foundation that our founding fathers used to develop documents like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights,” said Rep. D.J. Johnson (R-Owensboro). “All of those came from principles from the Bible.”
Pseudo-historian and not-a-doctor David Barton might agree with that, but our founding documents are far less rooted in the Bible than right-wing politicians would have you believe.
And that’s really why church/state separation groups have a problem with the bill Bevin signed. So often, when these kinds of classes are offered, teachers become preachers. They teach the Bible as if it’s literally true, and a history book, and something we can’t criticize.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation asks a fair question.
“How will the Kentucky Board of Education ensure the course does not become devotional?” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor has said. “The bill already shows bias by singling out only one so-called ‘holy book’ for study.”
If the Kentucky law results in the imposition of religion onto the state’s public schools, FFRF will not hesitate to push back.
The ACLU of Kentucky is on the same wavelength.
“A Bible literacy bill that, on its face, may not appear to be unconstitutional, could in fact become unconstitutional in its implementation,” said Advocacy Director Kate Miller.
Miller told WDRB News the ACLU will monitor the law closely.
“We want to make sure that teachers can teach and make sure that they don’t go in to preach,” Miller said.
The only way these groups can put a stop to illegal preaching in the classroom is if students who take these classes (and their attentive parents) are willing to report any teachers who cross the line into proselytizing.
If you’re in that group, just remember: You can report these issues anonymously, so don’t hesitate.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Niko for the link)