On Monday, President Donald Trump praised new efforts to enable students to study the Bible in schools as part of an elective program.
“Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!” he tweeted.
Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 28, 2019
So far this year, laws that would require or encourage schools to offer a Bible elective have been proposed in Florida, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Virginia, and West Virginia, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reported. At least three Bible literacy bills were considered in 2018, in Alabama, Iowa, and West Virginia, but none passed.
USA Today’s Erin Richards reported on the effort earlier this month. According to her report, the proposals “would require or encourage public schools to offer elective classes on the Bible’s literary and historical significance.”
“The Bible is an integral part of our society and deserves a place in the classroom,” state Rep. Aaron McWilliams (R-N.D.), a co-sponsor of a bill that would require the state’s public high schools to offer an elective on Bible studies, told USA Today.
Opponents argue the measures come close to violating the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which forbids the establishment of a state religion. However, the classes could teach the Bible’s literary and historical significance without proselytizing.
Few books in world history have had the Bible’s impact, and Americans of all religions and none should be conversant with this fundamentally important book. It seems rather odd that so many oppose the teaching of the Bible in public schools. Are they afraid that if students read the Bible, they cannot help but become believers in Judaism and Christianity? Otherwise, why oppose so commonsense an idea?
Americans can —and should — read the Bible, whatever they believe about its status as a revelation from God. Schools should teach the Bible from a secular standpoint, enabling students to know the book and engage with it as they will.
While some attacked Trump for supporting the Bible without demonstrating a strong knowledge of the text, the president’s call for more education has strong secular justifications and can be made without a reference to any verse in the scripture. Even the most avowed atheist (such as Richard Dawkins) could — and arguably should — defend teaching the Bible in schools.
These bills that merely make Bible literacy an elective are an important first step toward preparing Americans to understand their own history and the beliefs of over 2 billion people on the planet. Trump is right to support them.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.