OK Republican Wants Pointless ‘Protection’ for Bible Classes

After a school district in Oklahoma decided to offer a Bible course created by the owner of Hobby Lobby and then backed off that decision, a Republican in the state legislature is proposing a bill to provide useless “protection” to school districts that offer such courses.

Senate Bill 48, proposed by Sen. Kyle Loveless, R-Oklahoma City, is a very short bill, but the impact may be much larger.

The bill would allow public school districts to have “no liability as a result of providing an elective course in the study of religion or the Bible.”

Loveless said the proposed bill comes after the Mustang Public School District, in suburban Oklahoma City, agreed to begin teaching an elective course with curricula provided by the Green family of Mardel and Hobby Lobby fame that would teach history from a Biblical perspective.

The school district approved teaching the curriculum in April 2014. However, after several legal challenges by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union, Mustang Public Schools decided in November 2014 not to hold the classes.

“In summary, the topic of a Bible course in the Mustang School District is no longer a discussion item nor is there a plan to provide such a course in the foreseeable future,” Mustang Superintendent Sean McDaniel wrote in an email.

Loveless told the Examiner-Enterprise on Tuesday that because of the legal concerns by the district, his constituents approached him asking to write a bill that would indemnify a school district from teaching such an elective course.

“The district projected that there were going to be between 20-30 students interested in the elective. In actuality, 180 students signed up,” he said. “They were extremely disappointed in having the class cancelled.”

According to Loveless, he believes in the separation of church and state, but that does not mean that there is any harm in school districts offering an optional class that explores the historical aspects of the Bible.

“I don’t see anything wrong (a provision) that gives local school districts the ability to study the historical aspects of the Bible. That’s my reasoning for the bill. It is not a forced class and this would not be a ‘Sunday School’ type course. We are not endorsing one religion over the other,” he said.

However, Loveless would not give a clear answer when asked if he would support the bill if the wording changed from “or the Bible” to “or the Quran.”

“Oklahoma is a predominantly Christian state. There has been no movement to teach the Quran as an elective. I would be open to debate on the issue,” he said.

Now that’s just funny. The overwhelming majority of church/state cases are filed in federal court, not state court, and states have no authority to limit the jurisdiction of federal courts. In other words, this bill would do nothing at all — except pander to the rubes, which I suspect is the goal.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Reginald Selkirk

    We are not endorsing one religion over the other,” he said.

    However, Loveless would not give a clear answer when asked if he would support the bill if the wording changed from “or the Bible” to “or the Quran.”

    That’s a pretty sharp journalist.

  • gshelley

    I imagine that if the course they had chosen was one of the secular courses that actually study the bible as history or literature, rather than pushed a narrow Sectarian view, the FRFF wouldn’t have objected.

  • whheydt

    It’s really very easy to look at the historical parts of the Bible. Just pick up a copy of “Asimov’s Guide to the Bible” and read it.

  • jufulu

    I hope that Loveless is responsible about it and provides the necessary funding. It would be nice if it the bill was budgeted properly with a tax or fee. Or in other words, a tithe as it were. We’ll call it the make the “God Happy Tax”.

  • erichoug

    I really don’t have an issue with offering religious based courses in school. So long as they are more than just proselytizing time for the religion in particular. Which is probably the problem.

    I remember having to read a book called “The Puritan Sermons of the 17th Century” in high school. Nothing made me hate religion more than those boring, neurotic sermons.

  • eric

    “I don’t see anything wrong (a provision) that gives local school districts the ability to study the historical aspects of the Bible.

    To echo gshelley: neither do we…but that’s not what the HL-designed course does.

    Ed:

    The overwhelming majority of church/state cases are filed in federal court, not state court, and states have no authority to limit the jurisdiction of federal courts.

    It still seems to me a very bad bill that we (or people in general) should fight against. Even if it gets bypassed every time there’s a church-state infraction, it still (IMO) sets a very bad precedent. Next thing you know, religious conservatives will be immunizing public school districts against damages for providing anti-abortion materials and other misleading sex-ed materials. Creationist science materials. Anti-immigration and Bartonesque history materials. And so on.

  • abb3w

    So, this law doesn’t look like it would give the coverage that the Mustang School District was specifically looking for — indemnification in the event that materials provided as “objective study” were found by the courts to be impermissible sectarian instruction.

    What’s seems closer to what the district actually needs would be a law saying that publishers of materials for such classes must either themselves offer an indemnity warranty (for amount of any adverse judgements of plaintiff legal costs or damages) to schools that purchase them, or have them submitted to a state board of review that will decide whether the materials appear sufficiently non-sectarian that the State will itself offer such indemnity warranty and grant cause of action in state court to any district needing reimbursement for such judgement.

  • busterggi

    Shouldn’t the churches oppose this course? What if the teacher is some heretic like a Lutheran or Mormon or (gasp) Catholic?

  • http://artk.typepad.com ArtK

    @abb3w

    I’m sure that subtleties like indemnification are completely lost on Rep. Loveless. All he heard was that evil libruls and secularlistic types attacked a bible class and he’s going to Take A Stand For Jesus!

    @busterggi

    The idea that separation of church and state actually protects them is lost on them completely. Because they are representatives of The One True Way™, they don’t need any protection from those nasty heretics.

  • Michael Heath

    busterggi writes:

    Shouldn’t the churches oppose this course? What if the teacher is some heretic like a Lutheran or Mormon or (gasp) Catholic?

    Shush! That comes after we establish a Christian theocracy; where we’ll then become the pure fundie state Anglo-General-Hetero Jesus demands.

  • dingojack

    What if the bill was designed to allow public school districts to have “no liability as a result of providing an elective course in the study of religions”?* Would that be constitutional?

    Dingo

    ———

    * As an ‘limited open forum’ presumably the local Satanist chapter would cobble together a syllabus and demand equal time, Fundie head ‘splosions would occur, and the school would decide that if Fundies can’t exclusively teach their brand of religion then no-one can. No doubt lying like hell to make it all those evil non-Fundies fault.

    But it would be certainly more interesting if Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and etc. came forward, it would make the blame game more difficult and point out the glaring hypocrisy for all to see.

  • dingojack

    According to a Pew Research “Religion and Public Life” Survey — Oklahoma has:

    Evangelical Protestant: 53%

    Mainline Protestant: 16%

    Catholic: 12%

    Unaffiliated: 12%

    (Historically Black Protestant: 3%

    Refused/DK: 1%

    Buddhist: 1%

    A Faith not-listed: 1%

    All others <0.5%)

    Margin of error of 5% (those bracketed are within the margin of error).

    Dingo