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.