Our friends at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) just posted Bible-as-science-reference bill in Idaho. They say:
Idaho’s Senate Bill 1321 (PDF), introduced on February 12, 2016, and referred to the Senate Committee on State Affairs, would, if enacted, permit the use of the Bible in Idaho’s public schools “for reference purposes to further the study of” a variety of topics, including “astronomy, biology, [and] geology.”
Lordy, lordy. Your Curmudgeon has written about many creationist bills, although never one in Idaho. That state’s debut is a beaut — it certainly ranks up there with the best of them (“best” being a term that, in this context, depends on the observer’s sanity). NCSE also tells us:
The bill resembles a resolution (PDF, p. 4) adopted by the Idaho Republican Party in the summer of 2015. The executive director of the party told KBPO television (June 10, 2015), “if there is a school district that thinks having the Bible as part of the curriculum would be useful, this resolution is basically saying, ‘we support the idea of allowing them to have that tool in their tool box.'”
It’s always good to have a bible in one’s tool box. Let’s take a look at the operative parts of the new bill. It’s not very long. We’ll add some bold font where we think it’s appropriate:
This is the currently existing law, which the new bill would repeal:
We took a look at the Idaho Constitution, to see if there might be something relevant. Article I, Declaration of Rights, says, in Section 4. Guaranty of religious liberty:
… No person shall be required to attend or support any ministry or place of worship, religious sect or denomination, or pay tithes against his consent; nor shall any preference be given by law to any religious denomination or mode of worship. …
That looks good enough to block the public schools from teaching biblical astronomy, biology, geology, world geography, archaeology. Also, ARTICLE IX, Education and School Lands, says:
Section 6. Religious test and teaching in school prohibited. No religious test or qualification shall ever be required of any person as a condition of admission into any public educational institution of the state, either as teacher or student; and no teacher or student of any such institution shall ever be required to attend or participate in any religious service whatever. No sectarian or religious tenets or doctrines shall ever be taught in the public schools, nor shall any distinction or classification of pupils be made on account of race or color. No books, papers, tracts or documents of a political, sectarian or denominational character shall be used or introduced in any schools established under the provisions of this article, nor shall any teacher or any district receive any of the public school moneys in which the schools have not been taught in accordance with the provisions of this article.
Excellent! It appears that Idaho is one of 37 (or maybe 38) states to have enacted a version of the Blaine Amendment. According to the clear words of the Idaho Constitution, the bill being proposed is as dead as King Tut — but if the thing passes and becomes law, a judge will have to be the one to say so.
You can follow the progress of the bill here: Senate Bill 1321. Nothing’s happened yet except that it was introduced on 12 February 2016 and referred to the Senate’s State Affairs Committee on 15 February 2016.
There’s no indication of who the bill’s sponsors are, but NCSE says it was proposed by Sheryl Nuxoll. Here’s her page at the legislature’s website. It says she’s a “housewife, mother, co-manager of farm/ranch; business degree, Gonzaga University; held a CPA license until 1988.” We never heard of Gonzaga University, but Wikipedia says it’s “a private Roman Catholic university located in Spokane, Washington.”
The Idaho legislature convened on 11 January, and they’re scheduled to adjourn in “early April.” We’ll be watching.
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