Wednesday, 20 February 2019

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G Government Affairs

Bible studies course proposed in new state bill

By BY YAREMI FARINAS, For CBS / CBS12 / WTVX / CW34, On 15 January 2019, Read Original
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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) — A new bill making its way through the Florida Legislature would require school districts to offer religion and bible courses as an elective.

Some people support the bill because it would be a voluntary course high school students could take if they wanted. It would not be a requirement.

Then, there are others who describe the bill as dangerous and unconstitutional.

“Religion is a personal thing” Robin Johnson said.

Johnson is a strong believer religion should be kept out of the classroom, even if it’s just an elective.

“It’s not something like science, something that people study on a regular basis to learn about," she said. "That should be done in your church and in your home."

Paul Bozik disagrees.

“I think there ought to be an opportunity for parents and children who want to get some religious background get some,” he said.

House Bill 195 filed by Jacksonville State Representative Kimberly Daniels, who is also a pastor, would require all state school districts to offer high school students religion and Bible courses as an elective.

“I do believe there are other issues than religion that schools should face that are more important than religion,” parent Mala Lindseth said.

The bill says the courses would maintain religious neutrality and focus on topics such as the New and Old Testaments of the Bible and Hebrew scriptures.

“I really don’t know how many of our teachers do have academic degrees in the study of religion,” said Wilfredo Ruiz, Communications Director for Council on American Islamic Relations in Florida.

Ruiz said the bill is unconstitutional because it’s only catered to two religions.

“We cannot play naive when these bills are introduced. They are introduced for the full purpose of excluding religions other than Judaism and Christianity from the public square,” Ruiz said.

But not everyone sees it that way.

“It’s an elective. They can practice it or not. They don’t have to,” Bozik said.

If passed, the bill would go into effect in July, right before the start of the next school year.

Click here to read the bill.

CBS12 News reached out to the American Civil Liberties Union in Florida. The organization release this statement:

“There are acceptable ways to teach about the Bible: schools can teach comparative religion classes or about the Bible’s relationship to literature, art or music. However, it is exceedingly difficult to do so in a constitutionally permissible manner. Ultimately, parents, not the government, should be in charge of religion education. To ensure one faith is not promoted over another in our public schools and to protect our student’s First Amendment rights, we’ll continue to monitor this bill to see how it progresses during this legislative session."

 

-- Kirk Bailey, Political Director.

 

* Picture: Lyn Lomasi [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons