By: Lucy Terry | News Editor
February 1, 2019
On January 28, 2019, President Trump tweeted out his support for the introduction of Bible literacy classes in schools after this proposition by several state legislatures. The legislation would introduce elective classes to educate students on the New and Old Testaments in public schools. Six Republican controlled state legislatures, including Florida, North Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia, Missouri, and Indiana, have made efforts to push this legislation through after the Governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin, was successful in doing so in 2017. Throughout 2018, various attempts were made by Iowa, Alabama, and West Virginia to implement Bible literacy classes, but these were ultimately unsuccessful. While none of the bills have yet to pass, many Christian groups and other religiously affiliated groups are strongly advocating in support of these bills.
The primary motivation behind this legislation proclaimed by lawmakers is that the Bible holds strong morals and traditional values that deserve a place in the classroom. Others believe that grasping the tenets of the Bible would help students further grasp United States culture and understand the background and actions of our founding fathers. The idea that these classes would only be elective is also appealing. “If it’s an optional class you can take, I think it’s fine,” senior Spencer Currie said. “People should be allowed to pursue their passions at school in a way that doesn’t force it on other people.”
However, critics believe that the idea behind Bible literacy classes could be easily manipulated into an assertion of Christian ideology. Classes like these also seem full of constitutional violations, but, surprisingly, remain constitutional if the teacher teaches the material academically and does not promote or disparage the perspectives of that religion or others. However, many believe that the separation of church and state is vital and should be preserved at all costs. Senior Bella Guarascio is one of these people. “It doesn’t seem like a big deal because these classes wouldn’t be required,” said Guarascio, “but it goes against separation of church and state. I think that we need that because, overall, it protects education and students.”
The recent history of Bible literacy courses in Kentucky, however, is complicated. A year after the governor approved school courses about Bible and Hebrew scriptures, in January 2018, an Open Records Act investigation was launched by the ACLU of Kentucky. They discovered that the courses were violating the requirements by not being objective and purely academic. The ACLU saw that these teachers were using the Bible to teach their students about life lessons and relied on Sunday school materials and resources to teach. Both were deemed subjective by the organization.
This unprecedented push for Bible literacy has been linked to Project Blitz, a movement dedicated to passing legislation developed by various Christian groups. Linked is actually more of an understatement here; many of the bills produced by the legislatures are exact word-for-word copies of model bills developed by Project Blitz. This organization is sponsored by various right-wing religious groups, such as the National Prayer Caucus Foundation, and the WallBuilders ProFamily Legislative Network. While much of the coordination between these groups is under a shroud of mystery, the intentions of Project Blitz are quite clear; in their initiative to promote more Christian legislation, they hope to reshape views on religious liberty that bring back the socially conservative, biblical roots of America’s past. This involves attempts to limit the rights of members of the LGBT+ community, and establish events like “The Year of the Bible” and “Christian Heritage Week”. Despite the prevalence of Christian organizations in support of Bible literacy, many are wary of what messages Project Blitz promoted, which align with President Trump’s platform, and the image it projects onto the evangelical community.
In fact, some view President Trump’s endorsement of Bible literacy classes as a mere political move. Evangelicals and various Christian groups made up a lot of Trump’s coalition for the 2016 election, and as a result, he has desperately tried to appease them with staunch conservative views on LGBT+ rights and abortion, as well as the appointment of numerous social conservatives while in office. Much of his rhetoric regarding this is centered around some idea that Christianity has undergone a narrative of loss and neglect in our society and that we must work to restore it. Given the delicate nature of Bible literacy classes, it would require extreme effort to preserve and uphold academic standards, and under the right circumstances, classes like these could flourish. Yet these classes cannot be created only for the misguided, blatant promotion of religion, or to suppress the rights of fellow citizens, and, most importantly, they cannot just serve as a hollow political stunt by a flailing administration.