Bible studies class proposed in Florida as elective

- Florida lawmakers are considering a bill allowing public high schools to offer an elective Bible studies class as part of its curriculum.

House Bill 195 was introduced by Jacksonville Democrat Rep. Kim Daniels last week.  It would require every school district in Florida offer religion classes as an elective to students in 9th-12th grade.

The bill is short on details but calls for "an objective study of religion," and an "objective study of the Bible, including, but not limited to, a course on the Hebrew Scriptures and Old Testament of the Bible; a course on the New Testament of the Bible; and a course on the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament of the Bible, and the New Testament of the Bible."

Right now, such courses are allowed to be offered in schools, but it is not mandatory for districts to offer them.

Pastor Troy Schmidt of First Baptist Church or Windemere supports the idea as an elective, and pointed out several other states, including Texas, Kentucky and Oklahoma have implemented a similar mandate.

"The Bible is a 2,000-plus-year-old document. It has a lot of historical significance, it formed our nation," he said. "It's not being forced. People have the choice to take it or not, they could take any other course they want."

However, not all are on board with the proposal. David Williamson, cofounder of the Central Florida Freethought Community said this kind of course would require specific teachers. 

"They're going to have to identify a person who can teach this, determine if they can objectively teach this," he said. "You don't have an objective world religions class here, you have a Judeo-Christianity, and Kim Daniels version of it, put into schools."

Rep. Daniels is a former preacher, and self-proclaimed "demon-buster' In 2018, lawmakers passed a bill to get the phrase "In God we Trust" displayed at every Florida public school. Daniels did not answer requests for comment on this story.

Similar legislation has been proposed in North Dakota by Republican lawmakers who have come under heavy criticism for the proposal. The American Civil Liberties Union has even called it "unconstitutional," claiming the course needs to bring other viewpoints into the mix.

“A school could teach comparative religious classes or you could talk about the Bible’s relationship to literature, art, or music," Heather Smith, ACLU executive director in North Dakota, told KVRR.

The Florida bill stipulates that schools must "follow all state and federal laws and guidelines in maintaining religious neutrality and accommodating the diverse religious views, traditions, and perspectives of all students in the school." 

Kentucky passed a similar bill in 2017.

 

WOFL reported this story from Lake Mary, Florida, with some information taken from FoxNews.com.

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