The separation of church and state has long been an important stipulation of the practices in the U.S. That includes the exclusion of any kind of religious study in public schools, with some even banning students from carrying religious texts on campus. Instead, students are given broad teaching of a variety of different religions from all over the world, as well as a historical overview of world religions and their practices.
But that all appears to be changing at the moment. A number of state legislatures have introduced “Bible literacy” bills that will give students attending public schools the opportunity to study both the Old and New Testaments in depth, according to USA Today.
The classes won’t be compulsory for students, but in some states, schools will be required to offer the elective to students. Others only encourage schools to put the class on the register for students who wish to take it. From the students’ point of view, it seems that the classes are optional in both instances.
President Donald Trump has come forward to praise the new bills, taking to Twitter with his response to the news.
“Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!”
The argument of lawmakers championing these new bills is that “they want to restore traditional values in schools.” This is despite concerns from others that offering Bible study alone will not give students a comprehensive view and understanding of the many religions that are practiced all over the world.
“The Bible is an integral part of our society and deserves a place in the classroom,” said Republican state Rep. Aaron McWilliams of North Dakota, who has been advocating for the bill to be passed in his state.
North Dakota lawmakers want to require Bible study in public schools || via: thinkprogress https://t.co/WTunoo53bo— SafetyPin-Daily (@SafetyPinDaily) January 10, 2019
Those who oppose the bills continue to point out that forcing schools to offer Bible study “violates the constitutional line between church and state.”
“State legislators should not be fooled that these bills are anything more than part of a scheme to impose Christian beliefs on public schoolchildren,” said Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
People also took to Twitter to express their anger at the new bills, arguing that their tax dollars should not be spent on schools that are teaching specific religions to its students and that there are plenty of private schools that are advertised as Christian schools for that very reason.
“There’s a major difference between Bible study and philosophically teaching what major religions believe. Preaching to kids in public schools, even as an elective is against our constitutional rights for the separation of church and state,” wrote one Twitter user.
Another added, “Not in public schools. If you want your kids to do Bible study during the day, send them to that type of school.”
“Separation between church and state is not up for debate.”
One other user pointed out that the president promoting Bible study in schools is ironic.
“Anyone who thinks irony is dead need only look at this amoral, irreligious conman propagating Bible study in public schools.”
This is not the first time that Bible study bills have been proposed. This latest round is taking place in six states: Florida, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Virginia, and West Virginia. Despite the concerns of those opposing the bill, there is a way that it can avoid violating the first amendment, as there is a “line in public schools between teaching about a religion and proselytizing.”