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The Religious Right’s Bible Curriculum: Reading, Writing, And Religion

Reprinted with permission from DCReport.

The Trump administration has proposed a 12 percent cut in Department of Education spending under its yearly budget. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is busily eliminating programs to help public schools and promoting private education efforts under the motto of choice.

Yet somehow, magically, there is support for the growth of teaching Christian Bible classes in public schools.

Once again, we have an out-and-out statement about what is important in this administration—not school shootings, not affirmative efforts to improve public education, not help with student debt or even the pursuit of growing sexual assault on school campuses.

Counseling Today magazine argues, for example, that it has become necessary to lobby seriously to keep federal money for school mental health. The Trump administration’s federal budget proposal cut $8.5 billion from the Department of Education, including the Student Support and Academic Enrichment program. That program supported, among other things, mental health, school security and safety, community engagement—the kind of programs that would address the issues we hear after every school shooting.

Instead, Washington Post religion writer Julie Zauzmer detailed the movement of church Bible classes from churches into public schools. She took us to Kentucky, where a new state law—one of several pending in other states —is encouraging public high schools to teach the Bible, not as part of a survey of religions, but as Bible study.

Through a legislative effort called Project Blitz, activists on the religious right, have drafted a law that encourages Bible classes in public schools and persuaded at least 10 state legislatures to introduce versions of it this year. Georgia and Arkansas recently passed bills that are awaiting their governors’ signatures. Among the powerful fans of these public-school Bible classes is Trump. “Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible,” Trump tweeted in January. “Starting to make a turn back? Great!”

According to the Post, proponents of Bible instruction, including Chuck Stetson, who publishes a textbook that he says is in use in more than 600 public schools across the nation, are enthusiastic. “We’re not too far away from a tipping point. Instead of having to find a reason to teach the Bible in public schools academically, as part of a good education, you’re going to have to find a reason not to do it,” Stetson said. “When the president of the United States gives us a shout-out, that’s pretty crazy…. It’s got the momentum now.”

On the other side, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a nonpartisan advocacy group organizing opposition to the state laws, coordinated a statement signed by numerous religious groups that oppose Project Blitz’s efforts.

In 1963, the Supreme Court ruled that school-led Bible reading is an unconstitutional religious practice. But the court noted that teaching the Bible was allowed: “Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment.”

Both those in favor of Bible classes and against see the Bible as a key component of a well-rounded education, particularly if part of history classes. Sometimes schools have offered “released time” rules that let students use part of their school day attending church-taught classes. But that is not what is called for in the state bills supported by Project Blitz, an effort of the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, which describes its purpose as protecting “the free exercise of traditional Judeo-Christian religious values and beliefs in the public square.”

The model for many states is Kentucky, where state standards for elective Bible education became the law in 2017. The American Civil Liberties Union swiftly responded, issuing a letter that said it would closely monitor all school districts in the state. The organization flagged four school districts in Kentucky, warning that the materials used to teach the Bible in those schools suggested they were violating the Constitution and might lead to a future ACLU lawsuit. Two of the four districts have since stopped offering a Bible class, saying student interest was low. In the other two, rural counties, dominated by evangelical Christians, teachers lead prayers over the loudspeaker.

The content of these classes has clashed with conclusions reached elsewhere in science classes, say, concerning evolution or even information about other religions.

DeVos has made clear that she supports moving public school support to parochial schools. It would seem that several states just want to merge the two.

IMAGE: Bible photo by Vicki’s Pics via Flickr

5 Anti-Science Congressmen On The House Science Committee

 

Representative Phil Gingrey (R-GA) and former representative Todd Akin (R-MO) have more in common than a breathtaking lack of knowledge of and political tact on the subject of rape. They are also former colleagues on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

According to a 2009 Pew Poll, only 6 percent of scientists identified themselves as Republicans — and it’s easy to see why. Although Gingrey and Akin have moved on, many of the Republican congressmen in charge of setting the nation’s scientific agenda are openly hostile to overwhelmingly accepted scientific theories.

Here are five proudly anti-science members of the House Science Committee:
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Lamar Smith (R-TX)

Smith, the current chair of the committee, has publicly criticized scientists and journalists who are “determined to advance the idea of human-made global warming,” and he has backed up his rhetoric with a hard line voting record. During his 25-year tenure in Congress, Smith has voted to block the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases, opposed tax credits for renewable energy and raising fuel efficiency standards and rejected the Kyoto Protocol.

As ThinkProgress points out, Smith has a powerful incentive to deny the existence of climate change: throughout his career, Smith has received $500,000 from the oil and gas industry.
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Paul Broun (R-GA)


The Tea Party-backed Broun, who has served on the Science Committee since 2007, appears to believe that scientists are literally tools of the devil. In an October speech at the Liberty Baptist Church Sportsman’s Banquet, Broun declared, “All that stuff I was taught about evolution and embryology and the Big Bang Theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of Hell.”

“And it’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who were taught that from understanding that they need a savior,” he added.

In the same speech, Broun claimed “I don’t believe that the Earth’s but about 9,000 years old. I believe it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says.”
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Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI)


Sensenbrenner is a well-known climate change truther who has asserted that Earth has been cooling over the past 10 years, that Mars has been warming at a similar rate to Earth, and that global warming will help crop yields go up, making it “easier to feed 7 billion people,” among other flagrant falsehoods.

Sensenbrenner also rejects the fact that genetics influence weight, telling the obese to “Look in the mirror because you are the one to blame.” Along the same hypocritical lines, Sensenbrenner opposed First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” anti-obesity campaign due to her “large posterior.
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Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)


Rohrabacher is arguably Congress’ least informed member when it comes to climate science, strenuously arguing that climate change and global warming are either a hoax or a massive conspiracy perpetrated by scientists and liberals.

Most notably, Rohrabacher has claimed that “CO2 is irrelevant,” “polar bears are not becoming extinct,” and that “dinosaur flatulence” may have caused past climate changes.

Mo Brooks (R-AL)


Brooks is another climate change truther — having argued that global warming is an “aberration” and “guesswork speculation” — with an interesting twist: His district is home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center.

Perhaps that is why Brooks co-signed what ThinkProgress labeled an “Abandon Earth letter,” which argued that “Space is the ultimate high ground,” and that ” we can reorient NASA’s mission back toward human spaceflight by reducing funding for climate change research.”

Photo: Republican Conference via Flickr