The slippery slope of Florida public education including Bible study
Bottom Line: This bill which made the rounds in Florida last week has now gained national attention and may now be the highest profile piece of legislation considered in our state this year. As a result, I wanted to dig a little deeper into what this, isn’t, and the potential unintended consequences.
This bill would mandate that all public high schools in Florida offer Bible study as an elective. The bill calls for "an objective study of religion," and "an objective study of the Bible, including, but not limited to, a course on the Hebrew Scriptures and Old Testament of the Bible; a course on the New Testament of the Bible; and a course on the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament of the Bible, and the New Testament of the Bible."
The bill is NOT a mandate that all public high school students be taught about the Bible.
Those very important distinctions have been blurred in the initial reporting of this proposal. For those reasons, and despite the noise, you might hear from some, this would be on solid Constitutional ground were it to pass. Despite the myth and misinformation of many, there’s no such thing as a separation of church and state.
The slippery slope with this one puts a slip and slide to shame. Let’s start with this point. Local school districts could do this independent of a state mandate right now. So, locally if parents want to make this a priority they can. It doesn’t require the state taking action to do so.
My First question on this though is who would teach the classes and from what perspective? Would these classes be taught by history teachers? Would they be taught by priests or preachers? What about Rabbis? Point is even with a religion like Christianity the messenger's interpretation can vary let alone the difference in perspectives regarding the old and new testaments. What if an atheist were to teach these classes? There’s a difference between world religion courses and what we’re talking about here. Which takes me to my next point.
If you’re Christian and supportive of this idea generally would you feel differently if it were a different religion being perpetuated?
This is the slipperiest slope of them all. If the answer is no then you probably shouldn’t be supporting this idea. The reason is pretty straight-forward. There’s no separation of church and state but that goes for any church, temple, mosque, etc. Public schools shouldn’t be taking steps to prevent students from honoring their faith and values. There's a difference in teaching them.
Here's my final point. I’m all about more faith being instilled in our society today. In my opinion, we desperately need a restoration of values and morality in our society. But as always there’s a right and a less than ideal way of doing things. What I’d prefer to see happen is complete access to school vouchers for all parents. This would greater enable parents who’d like to prioritize faith as part of grade school education but can’t afford private education to do so. It would also further encourage competition and challenge the status quo of the current public education establishments which is desperately needed across the state, especially in places like Broward.
Photo by: MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP/Getty Images