Teaching the bible in public schools

Blitzwatch Banner Teaching the Bible.jpg
 

A primary goal of Project Blitz is to insert religion into public schools in ways that violate the U.S. Constitution.

Project Blitz provides four model bills that focus on that objective: the Bible Literacy Act, the Student Prayer Certification Act, the Teacher Protection Act, and the Preserving Religious Freedom in School Act.

The real reason for these bills is to force religion upon public school children.

Bible Literacy Act

This bill would require school districts to offer an elective course on the Bible. This is not intrinsically unconstitutional, so on the face of it, there may seem to be no problem. However, the Constitution places strict requirements on such courses, and schools are frequently unable or unwilling to meet those requirements. The true purpose of these bills is all-too-often to teach religion in public schools, which is made clear by statements made by lawmakers who use the Project Blitz template to introduce this type of legislation.

The Bible has had significance on Western literature, art, and history, so teaching about it can serve a constitutional purpose. However, the law makes it clear that the any Bible course:

  • Must be taught in a nondevotional manner, with no attempt made to indoctrinate students as to either the truth or falsity of biblical materials;

  • Must not include the teaching of religious doctrine or sectarian interpretation of the Bible;

  • Must not teach the Bible as a true and literal historic record; and

  • Should expose students to critical perspectives on the Bible and a diversity of biblical interpretations.

For more information, see Herdahl v. Pontotoc Cnty. Sch. Dist., 933 F. Supp. 582, 592 (N.D. Miss. 1996); Doe v. Human, 725 F. Supp 1503, 1506 (W.D. Ark. 1989); Wiley v. Franklin, 468 F.Supp. 133, 149-50 (E.D. Tenn. 1979).

 

Current Status

Several Bible Literacy Acts were introduced in 2018, including SB 252 in West Virginia, SB 391 in Alabama, and SB 2124 in Tennessee. Only Tennessee’s bill became law.

Currently, there are 7 states that mandate Bible courses in public schools: Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas.

Bible teaching.jpg

Student Prayer Certification Act, Teacher Protection Act, and Preserving Religious Freedom in School Act

These model bills are all related. The Student Prayer Certification Act would merely affirm that schools are in compliance with federal law regarding constitutionally protected student prayer. The Teacher Protection Act would allow school districts or employees who are sued for inappropriately subjecting students to their religious beliefs to be provided with legal assistance from the state. The Preserving Religious Freedom in School Act would merely restate federal constitutional law as it relates to religious expression in public schools.

These bills are problematic because they emphasize the Free Exercise Clause and ignore the restrictions imposed by the Establishment Clause. For example, while students have the right to include religious expression in their schoolwork, there are limits. The expression must be responsive to the assignment, and the school is required to prohibit any expression that infringes on the rights of other students. For example, a teacher cannot allow a student to use an oral presentation as an opportunity to proselytize to the class.

These bills deliberately blur the line between the two constitutional requirements in order to encourage students, teachers, and other school personnel to flout that line. The legal assistance provision of the Teacher Protection Act adds protections designed to embolden schools to inappropriately expose students to religious practices.