According to WSPA-TV, the CBS television station located in Spartanburg, South Carolina, there’s something strange going on nearby: NC Bill Would Add Bible Study At Public Schools. We’re always interested when lawmakers try to bring religion into public schools, so let’s see what that TV station says. We added the bold font:
Some people have fought against it, while others have prayed for it. And now, a North Carolina lawmaker has proposed it. Sen. Stan Bingham, R-Davidson wants passages from the Bible to become part of the curriculum in the state’s public high schools.
The man seems like a veritable Moses, bringing the holy book into the godless public schools. Who is he? Here’s his page at the Legislature’s website: Senator Stan Bingham. We’re informed that he’s a lumber company owner. Okay, back to the news story:
His bill would allow local school boards to offer elective courses for credit on the Old Testament, the New Testament or a combination of both.
That’s exciting. We looked at the legislature’s website and found this page for the bill: Senate Bill 138. On 27 February it was referred to Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate. No action since.
The bill’s text isn’t very long. You can read it as a pdf file: text of Senate Bill 138, but we’ll spare you the bother of clicking over there. It has a short, catchy title: AN ACT TO PROVIDE FOR LOCAL BOARDS OF EDUCATION TO OFFER TO STUDENTS IN GRADES NINE THROUGH TWELVE AN ELECTIVE COURSE IN BIBLE STUDY. Here’s what it says, and we put a few phrases in bold for emphasis:
You were probably impressed by the bill’s loving attention to neutrality. Perhaps you also noticed that by omission, it excludes the texts of all other religions. Let’s see what else the news story has for us. Ah, they offer some remarks by an informed citizen:
“It takes practice to hear an opinion or a viewpoint that just goes entirely against anything you ever thought in your life,” said Rev. Barbara Bathune. Bathune has spend time not only behind the pulpit, but also in front of a class of students teaching a college-level religious studies course.
That’s helpful. The news story then quotes the bill’s author:
“This is an elective,” said Bingham. “I don’t think it is out of order for a student to ask a school system to take an elective in the Bible.” Bingham’s bill, as written, only names the Bible as an option. A dozen lawmakers in the GOP-controlled Senate have signed on as co-sponsors, including three Democrats.
Yup, the bill has lots of sponsors in the Senate. The legislature’s page on the bill lists them: Allran, Brock, Clark, Cook, Daniel, D. Davis, Goolsby, Hise, Hunt, Jackson, McLaurin, Newton, Parmon, Pate, Randleman, and Sanderson. Here’s more from the news story:
Some people believe that classes on religion at tax-supported schools violates the constitutional separation of church and state. Sarah Preston, policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union-North Carolina, said it is notoriously difficult to teach the Bible inside a public school in a manner consistent with the First Amendment, which can put educators in a thorny situation.
Yes, it is difficult. So where are things now?
Bingham said he is happy to debate such issues as his bill moves through the legislative process. “There’s going to be a lot of discussion on this, and that’s exactly what I want to see happen,” he said.
This thing could erupt into a huge battle over state involvement with religion, or it could fizzle out into nothingness. We’ll have to keep an eye on things.
See also: Creationist Wisdom #310: Truth vs. Hogwash.
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