Florida State Rep. Kimberly Daniels, a Democrat, has a history of promoting Christianity through the government and looking like a fool in the process. Last year, she condemned witches and warlocks while calling on everyone to pray for Donald Trump. (It didn’t help.) She responded to the Parkland massacre by getting public schools to put up “In God We Trust” signs. (It doesn’t help.) She’s even insisted she cured a friend’s cancer using an audio CD of Bible verses. (She was wrong.)
Oh. And she once told a church crowd that she thanked God for slavery.
Now she’s introduced a bill that will require public schools to offer an elective Bible class to students. HB 195 is very similar to a bill filed in North Dakota earlier this week, but at least it takes measures to require objectivity and neutrality.
The bill requires high schools to offer a “secular program of education” that includes:
An objective study of the Bible, including, but not limited to, a course on the Hebrew Scriptures and Old Testament of the Bible; a course on the New Testament of the Bible; and a course on the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament of the Bible, and the New Testament of the Bible. A student may not be required to use a specific translation of the Hebrew Scriptures or Bible as the sole text for the course.
The problem with this legislation is that forcing high schools to offer these classes in Christianity could be seen as an unconstitutional endorsement of religion. (It’s not like anyone’s teaching the Qur’an as an elective.) Also, by requiring districts to hire teachers for these classes specifically, Daniels is causing them to use money that could be used to hire teachers in other core subjects. (In theory, by demanding schools hire a Bible teacher to work with, say, a few students per class, an English teacher could be stuck with an excessive roster that could have been alleviated with another teacher in that department.)
In short, this isn’t just a constitutional concern. It’s micromanaging school districts in a way that will hamper their ability to teach all students. It’s bad policy. It’s possibly illegal policy, no matter how much she stresses the courses must be taught in a neutral fashion.
At least the ACLU of Florida is keeping an eye on this legislation:
… Kirk Bailey, political director of the ACLU of Florida, says that his group is watching this bill.
“There are acceptable ways to teach about the Bible: schools can teach comparative religion classes or about the Bible’s relationship to literature, art or music. However, it is exceedingly difficult to do so in a constitutionally permissible manner,” Bailey said.
“Ultimately, parents, not the government, should be in charge of religious education. To ensure one faith is not promoted over another in our public schools and to protect our students’ First Amendment rights, we’ll continue to monitor this bill to see how it progresses during this legislative session,” Bailey added.
It pains me to say this, because Democrats as a whole are usually so much better about these subjects, but Daniels’ bill should be ignored and tossed aside. The students — and the teachers — deserve better than a legislator who thinks mandatory Bible class offerings would make things better in the state.
(Thanks to Joseph for the link)