Indiana May Soon Pass Bill Allowing Academic Credit for Religious Indoctrination April 2, 2019

Indiana May Soon Pass Bill Allowing Academic Credit for Religious Indoctrination

Indiana is on the verge of passing a bill that would award academic credit for religious education. Learning that Adam and Eve were real human beings who existed a few thousand years ago could soon count the same as taking an actual science class.

This is the result of SB 373, sponsored by State Sen. Dennis Kruse. Earlier this year, when Kruse first introduced the bill, it looked completely different. It included sections that would require schools to put up “In God We Trust” signs, include the Bible in any comparative religions elective class, and allow the teaching of Creationism.

Before the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development voted on the bill, though, all three of those sections were removed. That was a relief.

But even though that bill was “defanged” (to quote the National Center for Science Education), the part that remained was still problematic. That’s because the bill still says that school districts can adopt policies to reward students who skip school in order to take religious education classes. The students can earn up to two elective academic credits by doing this.

American Atheists says that this bill is unconstitutional for a number of reasons.

… it would create a system that is religiously coercive for students. First, peers or teachers may directly pressure atheist students to participate in religious programs. Second, this pressure could be indirect if religious programs are (or are perceived to be easier) or less burdensome than other available classes. Third, nonreligous students and those of minority religions would have fewer options to receive academic credit than students of faiths with qualifying religious education programs. Such students may be required to take burdensome, difficult, or otherwise undesirable classes to make up the credit difference.

In addition, SB 373 fosters excessive entanglement between religion and government. The bill would require school districts review course syllabuses and other materials to determine if the religious education qualifies for academic credit. However, this type of entanglement is prohibited by the First Amendment. As a result, SB 373 puts school districts at risk of lawsuits from students, accepted programs, and programs that are not accepted.

“Indiana’s students, school districts, and taxpayers deserve better than this. We strongly urge you to reject this ill-conceived legislation,” Alison Gill, Vice President for Legal and Policy, told the Indiana House Education Committee.

For now, the State Senate has passed the bill and the House Education Committee has approved it. American Atheists is asking residents of Indiana to contact their representatives and urge them to vote against this bill before it’s too late.

There’s no reason for public schools to give academic credit for religious mythology, and this bill creates more problems than it solves. Every district already has the opportunity to offer a comparative religions class. That’s more than enough. Kids deserve an education, not indoctrination. Leave Sunday School to the churches.

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