Republican Sherry Nuxoll has introduced a bill in the Idaho Senate Education Committee that would “expressly permit” public school teachers to use the Bible while studying such topics as literature, history, biology, music, and world geography.
The Education Committee unanimously agreed to introduce the bill.
Of course, teachers today are free to use the Bible if it fits with their curriculum or lessons, even without this bill getting a hearing. This is another solution in search of a problem.
And I’m willing to give her intentions the benefit of the doubt. I know there are Christians out there who have been told by their pastors, by Fox News, and by Republican Presidential candidates that their faith is under attack and in need of defense. Perhaps Senator Nuxoll is one of those people who believes that her job is to defend God.
This is a horrible way to do that.
To start, God needs no defense or protection. The God who created the universe in which the Earth spins does not need the Idaho legislature to pass a law in divine defense.
Additionally, to use the Bible as a text book for a public school classroom is bad public policy and bad religious practice.
We are a nation founded by people who intentionally set up the Constitution so that religious expression would be strongly protected and would not be dictated or enforced by the government. This bill is unconstitutional, if it forces people to hold up the religious text of one faith over the texts of another. How would Senator Nuxoll speak of ‘religious freedom’ if a similar bill was written giving express permission to use the Quran in public education?
It is bad religious practice because Scripture was never intended to be a textbook, taught to students by teachers who are seeking facts, and dates, and science.
Scripture is “inspired” which means “breathed into” by God. We trust that when read together in faith communities, the particular words on the page become something more than the ink and letters and punctuation.
One doesn’t have to be a trained theologian to read the Bible, but do Christians really want their kids’ math teacher being the one to teach them what Leviticus is all about? (No offense to my friends who are math teachers).
Do we really want God’s Word reduced to just another text book?
Also, “world geography” was one of the topics listed where she thought the Bible would be useful. Tell me how, exactly, books written by men who lived in a very small geographic region of the world, thousands of years ago, would be helpful here? These men (and they were men) never traveled beyond the known ‘end of the world’ beyond the Mediterranean Sea. What, exactly, do they have to teach us about the geography of Alaska, or Cleveland, or Iceland?
I’m all for better religious education, if only for the reason that it would prevent bills like this from being proposed. If you want to teach your children about scripture, find a community of faith and bring your children to worship and Sunday School.
Better yet, read the Bible to your children yourself, and let them ask you questions about how the Bible informs your faith and life. Be willing to be stumped by questions you can’t answer and trust that God is in the unknown.
Religious education does not belong in public schools. I’m a huge fan of public schools and am grateful for the men and women who have taught my children about Calculus, and Physics, and History, and Biology, and Spanish, and the list is long. My children have a better grasp of these subjects because they were taught them by trained professionals who put their time, their money, and their souls into sharing knowledge with my kids.
I am also grateful for the men and women who have taught my kids about the Bible, through sermons, through Sunday School classes, through the examples of their lives.
We should not confuse them or sell either of them short. This bill does both.