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Idaho Republicans Pass Resolution Supporting Use of Bibles Inside Public Schools

( [email protected] ) Jun 16, 2015 12:30 PM EDT
The Republican party in Idaho has proposed a resolution calling for support in using the Bible alongside public school curriculum, arguing that citizens of the state "must protect the principles and values that have made us strong."
A Bible class at Woodland High School in Cartersville, Ga. Associated Press

The Republican party in Idaho has proposed a resolution calling for support in using the Bible alongside public school curriculum, arguing that citizens of the state "must protect the principles and values that have made us strong."

The Idaho Press reports that Resolution 2015-P20, which was submitted by Idaho County Chairman Marge Arnzen, encourages legislators to draft a bill allowing public schools to use the Bible primarily "for reference purposes."

"[I]n 1782, the U.S. Congress voted this resolution: 'The Congress of the United States recommends and approves the Holy Bible for use in all schools,' and authorized a loan of money to help the printing and distribution of 10,000 copies to be made available to the public primarily for public schools,'" it notes.

The resolution explains that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that using the Bible in school for historical purposes is permissible under the Constitution.

"[T]he use of the Bible for literary and historic value is consistent with the 1st amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1963 case of Abington School District v. Schempp declared that the Bible is worth studying for its literary qualities and its influence on history," it states. "[I]n 1980, the Supreme Court ruling of Stone v. Braham stated that 'the Bible can constitutionally be used in an appropriate study of history, civilization, ethics, comparative religion, or the like.'"

Thus, the group is urging Idaho lawmakers pass a resolution endorsing the use of the Bible in public schools, arguing that the Holy book has the ability to be "utilized in public schools in a non-religious, non-sectarian, and non- denominational manner."

"Therefore, be it resolved that the Idaho County Central Committee encourages the Idaho legislature to draft and support a bill stating that the Bible is expressly permitted to be used in Idaho public schools for reference purposes to further the study of literature, comparative religion, English and foreign languages, U.S. and world history, comparative government, law, philosophy, ethics, astronomy, biology, geology, world geography, archaeology, music, sociology, and other topics of study where an understanding of the Bible may be useful or relevant," it reads.

The motion has been met with opposition from some, who question whether the resolution violates the state Constitution, and warn it could lead to the use of the Quran or other religious texts in school.

Others oppose the motion because of its references to science and law, stating that Christianity should only be used in history courses but not anything of a legal or scientific nature. Some, like atheist blogger Hemant Mehta, also argue that the motion is simply a ploy "to get Creationism into public schools."

However, Republican Party Committee Executive Director David Johnston told KBOI News that the resolution still leaves the use of the Bible as an option-rather than a requirement-and is meant as a statement of support for a teacher's right to use it if he or she wishes.

"I don't see it as a forcing upon anybody or interfering with it," he said. "Whether it be geography, history, literature or frankly just the study of the world religions; if there is a school district that thinks having the bible as part of the curriculum would be useful, this resolution is basically saying, 'we support the idea of allowing them to have that tool in their tool box.'

The GOP has a 4-1 majority in both chambers of the Idaho legislature, and the state's governor is a Republican. In the past, both Louisiana (2008) and Tennessee (2012) have passed laws that allow teachers to introduce religious materials in science classes as supplementary texts