A bill sponsored by a Missouri legislator would allow public school districts to offer elective Bible classes to students. HB 267 wouldn’t force districts to offer the classes like a similar bill in Florida, but it still opens the schools up to possible legal troubles if the classes aren’t taught objectively.
The legislation — which is co-sponsored by 18 Republicans and 1 Democrat — was put forth by Republican Rep. Ben Baker, and it has already passed through two separate House subcommittees.
Baker says the aim of the class would be to teach students how those books influenced society — and America’s founding fathers.
“That connection in of itself I think would help understand a lot of things: government, law, justice — you can go down the line,” Baker said. “There’s a lot of value there in understanding those, aside from being able to understand the culture around us.”
The way he says that suggests he wants to promote David Barton-style pseudo-history instead of actually discussing how the Founders supported church/state separation. Teaching the influence of the Bible on the formation of the United States, which was founded as a secular nation, doesn’t make very much sense. It sounds a lot like Texas trying to inject Moses into their U.S. history classes.
Fortunately, a lawmaker pointed out that the class should include some diversity in content, like teaching about the Qur’an, Vedas, and Sutras… but Baker shot that down, arguing that, somehow, teaching about the five most popular religions is more exclusionary than teaching just the one.
One point of contention during Wednesday’s debate was whether other religious texts should be included in a class. State Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, unsuccessfully offered an amendment that would have allowed Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist works.
“I am especially sensitive about majorities dominating minorities. And our founders were especially concerned about majorities dominating majorities,” said Dogan, who is the only black Republican member of the Missouri House. “That’s why we don’t have a popular democracy for every issue. That’s why we have a representative democracy.
Asked why his bill didn’t include Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist scriptures, Baker said “in doing that, they were being exclusionary.”
“There’s more religious texts than that,” Baker said. “So it would be more exclusionary than the current law is. They can already teach any of those books that they want to as an elective or part of elective courses. And there’s value in those things. I do think there’s a difference, though, between all of those religious books and the influence of the Bible on our nation. So, I think our students need to know that.”
This bill would create a slew of problems if enacted, the least of which is making sure the teachers are presenting the material objectively. Keep in mind there’s nothing stopping school districts from offering this kind of class right now if there’s interest; rather, this bill is just a way to promote Christianity in the public schools while trying to stay within the lines of the legal boundaries.
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