the Florida house is considering a bill to require Bible electives in secondary schools; a Hindu activist thinks the legislation should be further expanded.
The thrust: adding the sacred texts Vedas, Upanishads and Bhagavad-Gita to HB 195.
Rajan Zedthe president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, wants the texts to be included for “academic enrichment”.
According to the press release: “Rajan Zed further stated that Vedas means ‘knowledge’ in Sanskrit and that the Rig-Veda is the oldest scripture of mankind still in common use. The Vivid Upanishads provided privileged insight into the source of the highest philosophies. The Bhagavad-Gita, a philosophical poem, offered a universal message.
The bill as currently interpreted by sponsor Rep. Kim Danielsa Jacksonville Democrat and evangelist by trade, only envisions classes on the Old Testament, New Testament, and Hebrew Scriptures.
The only leeway is, ironically enough, in what can be wildly varying translations of the texts themselves: “The bill does not permit districts or schools to require a student to use a specific translation of the Hebrew or Bible scriptures as the only text. for a course.
It is unclear what the fiscal impact of adding Hindu religious scholars to the faculty of each high school would be for the districts.
Daniels resisted an intra-party demand to expand the scope of the bill. At a committee meeting this week, Rep. Anna Eskamani was denied a request to add the Quran to the bill.
For those who believe Bible courses would represent a slippery slope, Zed’s press release provides an example of the potential unintended consequences of Daniels’ legislation.
Daniels’ bill was approved by the 11-3 subcommittee and has two more cases before the House floor. However, there is no Senate Companion.
Similar legislation is being considered or has been passed elsewhere.
Daniels, a Christian evangelist, has already successfully passed religious legislation, building on the support of African-American Republicans and Democrats:
— HB 303the “Florida Student and School Personnel Religious Liberties Act”, passed in 2017.
The measure prohibits school districts “from discriminating against students, parents, and school staff based on religious views or expression” and requires a school district “to adopt a limited public forum policy and publish a clause non-responsibility during school events”.
— HB 839a bill requiring school districts to display Florida’s motto “In God We Trust”, passed in 2018.
Kirk Baileypolitical director of the ACLU of Florida, says his group is monitoring this bill.
“To ensure that one religion is not promoted over another in our public schools and to protect our students’ First Amendment rights, we will continue to monitor this bill to see how it progresses over the course of the year. of this legislative session,” Bailey added.