Sunday, February 21, 2016

Bibles in Backpacks

In June 2015, Republicans in Boise, Idaho pushed for the creation of a resolution that would explicitly allow for, and support, the use of the Holy Bible as a literary reference in public school curriculums. Idaho County drafted Resolution 2015-P20 and was submitted by the Idaho Country Chairman, Marge Arnzen. This resolution implies that because, “the strength of our nation lies with our faith and reliance on God our Creator…[we] must protect the values and principles that have made us strong” by allowing for the use of the Holy Bible in school curriculums. The resolution goes on further to state that the use of the Holy Bible in school curriculums abides by the First Amendment, and would be a source “worth studying for its literary qualities and its influence on history”.
The use of the Bible as a literary and historic reference is constitutionally endorsed and currently permitted in school curriculums. Idaho Republicans argue that this new resolution should be passed without hesitation due to previous resolutions made regarding a similar matter. In 1782, the United States Congress passed a resolution that allowed for the use of the Holy Bible in all schools and authorized a monetary loan to help print and distribute 10,000 copies of Bibles throughout U.S. public schools. If the Bible is currently allowed to be used as a literary resource in public school classrooms today, it begs the question – Why bother creating a law regarding this matter?

Senator Sheryl Nuxoll of Boise, Idaho believes that creating a bill specifically on this matter is necessary because teachers today are afraid they will be violating the constitution by using the Holy Bible in class. Nuxoll hopes that this bill will allow for the Bible to be used as a reference for “literature, comparative religion, English and foreign languages, United States and world history, comparative government, law, philosophy, ethics, astronomy, biology, geology, world geography, archaeology, music, sociology,” and etc. Nuxoll claims that use of the Bible will not be mandatory and that students will not be required to use the Bible in their studies if they object to do so. Nuxoll stresses upon the importance of the Bible in our nation’s history and distinguishes a contrast between the Bible and other religious texts because the Bible is so “embedded in American culture”. Opposing groups to this resolution argue that this motion creates an issue because it proposes that the Bible be used beyond just literary and historical courses which creates a conflict towards legal and scientific beliefs. Should there be a law allowing for the use of the Holy Bible in all subject matters within public schools? Or is this resolution a clear violation of the Establishment Clause within the First Amendment? 
I am conflicted in regards to this issue. I agree that the Bible should be available as a resource tool when discussing topics relative to historical religious history. However, I find many issues with the specifics of this desired bill. The fact that Nuxoll believes that the Holy Bible is a necessary literary reference for topics such as biology, ethics, astronomy, etc. makes me believe that the religious beliefs of Christianity could easily be coerced onto students. Yes, the bill does state the students will not be forced to partake in usage of the Holy Bible. However, what if constant reference to the Bible becomes a disadvantage to students who do not wish to use the Bible. Will teachers start using material found in the Bible on tests and exams? By opting out of using the Bible as a reference tool, will students be setting themselves back compared to their fellow classmates who do use the Bible in class?

A major point of conflict that I find in this resolution is discrimination towards religions besides Christianity. This bill is clearly discriminatory towards non-Christian religions because of its specificity of the use of the Holy Bible and no other religious text. Nuxoll’s statement on the importance of the use of the Bible instead of other religious texts by saying that the Bible is “embedded in American culture”, sheds light on the true intent of this proposed resolution. This bill clearly favors Christianity above other religions and by incorporating, and implicitly encouraging, this religious text to be used in classrooms, it is thus establishing religion within the classroom. If we open the door to the usage of the Holy Bible in the classroom, we should either allow for the use of any and all religious texts, or none of them at all.

9 comments:

Hannah L. said...

I agree that the Bible can be an important literary tool when referencing historical moments. Religion has been a cause for war, for migrating, and for many other issues. When looking back specifically at the history of the United States, the Bible can be helpful in putting into context why some of these things happened. However, I do believe that it is unfair for public schools to allow the Bible but not other religious texts. Not every student at the school will be Christian, and while the majority of people in our country have followed that faith, it is not the only one that students at this school will follow. Even though it helps to set up historical background and knowledge, I do think that in order for this to be constitutional, every religion should have the opportunity to provide their religious texts in public schools.

Matthew L. said...

I definitely agree with you that this is a difficult issue to attack as there are many differ facets to this argument. Many view the Bible as helpful to the education of high school students in considering the history of religion and how this complex history has played out over the years; however, I also fear how the Bible would truly be integrated into these schools. Would the students be forced to memorize what is said in the Bible? How would students who did not want to study the Bible be treated in a classroom setting? I believe that the answer to these questions would be unknown until the policy is actually implemented. Due to this, I believe that the assumption that needs to be made in this case would be that of the worst possible outcomes. If we take on these judgements, we could see teachers discriminating against students who did not want to read from the Bible or study from it. As we have learned from previous cases, we can not rely on people, even as they act in place of the state, to operate in a manner respecting religious freedom when it is brought into the public arena. Moreover, I also believe that issues would arise if people who found that their religion offered critical historical viewpoints in its classic text. Would any religious group who believed that their story provided context be allowed to have their book studied in school? Simply, no, these books, if of the minority religion, would most likely be thrown out without even consideration. Therefore, I believe that we are unable to allow Bibles in school.

Jim R said...

I concur with Kiriko's opinion.

By allowing the Bible into more subject areas within the classroom, the teachers could be trying to establish Christianity. Even though most of the schools in America have student bodies that are mostly Christian, it would not be fair to impose this standard on states that have schools with a more diverse background. These students in the minority would be isolated from their peers for having different beliefs.

Even though the states have some rights to create their own curriculum in their jurisdictions, having the Bible play a larger role in some states would impact the answers of some students in standardized tests such as the SAT or the ACT. This would lead to students not being able to be accepted into some universities with a more scientific interpretation of answers while other schools would see this devotion to Christianity as a benefit.

Drawing off of what Matthew and Hannah said, the alternative to allowing the Bible in schools would be to allow other books of worship such as the Qu'ran, Torah, Book of Mormon, Confucian classics, Vedas (Hinduism), etc. in order for students to analyze all of the religious lenses that various historical events can be seen from. However, these religious interpretations should all be kept separate from areas of science like astronomy, physics, and archaeology.

Samantha Woolford said...

This is definitely a difficult decision. I think that the Bible is definitely a good resource for certain subjects, such as history. I think the law is unconstitutional due to the fact that it excludes other religions, and it is the establishment of one religion over others. If it was more inclusive, then it would a completely different story. Having this law in place advances one religion, Christianity, and disadvantages others. In my high school, one of our pillars of learning was Comparative Religions and Cultures - we learned about the five major religions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. This was a good system because it gave us the history of each and used the different religious texts from each to further educate us about how religion affects different cultures throughout the world. I believe that if the law was made to be more inclusive of different religions, and if it's purpose was to educate children (rather than simply being allowed to use one text as a resource), then the law would be constitutional.

Lauren Caldas said...

I agree that this is a difficult issue to address. By allowing the use of the Bible in public schools, it can be seen as favoring Christianity over other religions unless the bill also allows for any other religious text to be used as well. This relates back to the issue of majority versus minority religions. If this bill was centered on the text of a different, less practiced religion, would there be the same debate? There is a likely chance that this bill would have been shut down much faster if this were the case. The argument that Christianity is "embedded in American culture" only reinforces the idea that it is a dominant religion in comparison to other religions. In order to respect the equality of all religions, any sacred text should be permitted as an educational reference in public schools.

nick paray said...

I think there should be no question of the constitutionality of the use of biblical passages in secular education. The bill aimed to affirm the ability of school teachers to use the bible as a literary reference in class. The bible has clear historical relevance as a literary text, and influential mode of philosophy, especially in the United States. It shouldn't matter to the constitutionality that other religious texts aren't as emphasized, the bible has the most historical influence in the US, so it would be the most helpful in classroom analysis. This isn't a question of religion, its a question of allowing children and teachers to use all the resources available to engage in constructive discussion of relevant historical issues.

Sara G. said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly. It seems inappropriate to allow religious texts (any or all) to be valid sources in classes outside of religious, literary, or historical studies. I agree that this could cause some students to feel pressured, or to potentially loose points on assignments where religious references were used. I also think it's just inappropriate, especially in courses within the sciences, to allow religious texts to be valid sources. The goal of a science class is to learn science, not religion. Just as a biology text book won't get you any points in a religion class, a religious text shouldn't get you any points in a science class. I also agree that by only including the bible in this resolution, the state is very much establishing religion, and maybe even limiting free exercise. By allowing only the bible to become a valid source, the state government is favoring Christianity, and by extension allowing Christian students to profess their religion more freely than students of other faiths who's religious texts aren't classed as valid sources in class.

Sedona Boyatzis said...

The Bible is without a doubt a major part of history and therefore a useful reference in various religious aspects throughout history. However, that does not mean that it should be referenced and used for aid in teaching lessons in virtually all subjects offered in schools. If all sources of religious reference were permitted to be used in schools, this would be an extremely different situation. But because this is an example of benefitting one religion over the other by assuming that it would be beneficial in all areas of teaching, which is an unfair establishment of religion.

Rosalie said...

I was taught the Bible in high school in English class, and personally it was one of the best books I was taught simply because knowing the basics of the Bible have helped me understand different philosophies better, which in turn makes me more knowledgeable about the ways that the world has been shaped. It was taught by a Jewish English teacher secularly (although we did mostly read the Old Testament). While this is a purely anecdotal argument, I do believe that if the Bible is taught in a secular way it can be both educational and interesting for everyone. It, like Shakespeare and Homer is influential to society if read purely as a piece of literature and not as truth.