Americans United for Separation of Church and State argued that an Oklahoma bill that would protect school districts offering Bible classes from lawsuits attempts to create a “loophole” in the law that would allow public schools to teach that the Bible is true.
Americans United has expressed opposition to Senate Bill 48 over concerns that it would allow Bible classes that advocate Christianity. Writing for the Americans United “Wall of Separation” blog on Wednesday, Sarah Jones argued that SB 48 was also unnecessary under current law.
“It’s also already legal for public schools to offer truly objective Bible or religion electives,” writes Jones.
“And if Loveless’s bill is an attempt to create a loophole allowing public schools to teach sectarian material, it is doomed to fail. It is well established by the courts that as an arm of our secular government, public schools are and should remain religiously neutral.”
Jones linked his concerns to Oklahoma’s Mustang School District, which had approved a Bible elective championed by Hobby Lobby Inc. President Steve Green.
The school district eventually dropped the course due to concerns expressed by Americans United about its alleged bigoted content.
“The class wasn’t removed just because it was talking about the Bible; it was removed because it was teaching students that the Bible is true, and it’s a sermon, not a public school lesson. “, continued Jones.
Senate Bill 48 will be officially introduced on the first Monday in February by State Senator Kyle Loveless and is expected to enter first reading on the same date.
“A school district and its employees and agents shall incur no liability by reason of providing any elective course in the objective study of religion or the Bible,” SB 48 bed.
In an interview with local media, Loveless explained that his bill came in response to legal efforts by Americans United against the Hobby Lobby president’s proposed course.
“[Many students] were extremely disappointed to see the course canceled,” Loveless told the Bartlesville Examiner Enterprise.
“I don’t see anything wrong [with a provision] which gives local school districts the opportunity to study historical aspects of the Bible. That’s my reasoning for the bill.”
Loveless added that his proposal is “not a forced course and it wouldn’t be a ‘Sunday School’ type course. We don’t endorse one religion over another.”
This is not the first time the Oklahoma legislature has considered a measure regarding Bible lessons in their public schools.
In 2010, a bill was introduced to allow electives on the Bible, which was sponsored by State Senator Tom Ivester and House Rep. Todd Russ.
Known as Senate Bill 1338the bill garnered much support from both houses of the Oklahoma legislature, but was withdrawn by its sponsors in April 2010 following the amendment process.