As one of the most consequential books of all time, the Bible is certainly worthy of study for its literary and historic importance. Indeed, the Supreme Court asserted that in its landmark 1963 Abington ruling,which outlawed the practice of public schools reading the Bible as part of morning prayers. Academic study, though, is clearly not the aim of conservative Christian activists who have undertaken a nationwide push for Bible classes in public schools. That they have been emboldened by Donald Trump’s presidency and seem to be succeeding should be of concern to anyone who values the separation of church and state enshrined in the Constitution.
An increasing number of states, The Washington Post’s Julie Zauzmer reported, are enacting or considering legislation that would encourage high schools to teach the Bible. In 2017, Kentucky became the first state to enact a law establishing standards for elective Bible education, and at least 10 other states have seen the introduction of similar legislation. Bills were enacted in Georgia and Arkansas.
The push is part of an organized legislative effort - unabashedly coined Project Blitz - by the religious right to get states to enact pro-Christian bills that range from requiring public schools to display the national motto of “In God We Trust” to legalizing discrimination against LGBTQ people. Activists are upfront about wanting to protect “the free exercise of traditional Judeo-Christian religious values and beliefs in the public square.” So much for the guidelines - “study of the Bible or religion . . . presented objectively as part of a secular program of education” - that the Supreme Court framed as consistent with the First Amendment.
The United States is a wonderfully diverse country, and its founders were wise in deciding against a government-approved religion. That’s what should be learned in the classroom - and also, apparently, at the White House.