Bible bill baptizes our schools

Three weeks ago, I wrote a column criticizing Arizona for disregarding the state of our public school education and forcing the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) to eliminate their ethnic studies program.

The State of Arizona argued that Ethnic Studies classes promoted the overthrow of the U.S. government, and that classes encouraging animosity toward an ethnic group should be banned.

In reality, the ethnic studies program at TUSD provided rich insight into the Mexican-American culture and history. It did not promote resentment, and it provided enrichment and cultural diversity into our K-12 curriculum.

It seems Arizona has proven its own hypocrisy with the introduction of two bills, HB 2473 and HB 2563, which would allow high schools to offer courses on the Bible.

The class is intended to provide insight into the influence Christianity has had throughout the world and to study a great piece of literature. It aims to acknowledge its variations of interpretations and relevance.  Rep. Terri Proud, R-Tucson, the bill’s sponsor, told Fox 10 that “students would benefit from the course because biblical references are everywhere.”

However, if you consider the logic lawmakers and state officials cited when eliminating the ethnic studies classes, it is evident that the Bible should not be taught in public schools.

The Bible is indeed a literary masterpiece, but it also portrays graphic accounts of murder, rape, discrimination and slavery. Wouldn’t studying these stories promote unlawful conduct?

For instance, the book of Genesis retells the story of Abraham, a man so devoted to God that he was willing to kill his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Basing this decision off the logic employed to eliminate ethnic studies programs, studying this story in public schools might influence our youth to be murders.

The book of Deuteronomy encourages soldiers to kill every man that opposes them, but keep women “to enjoy.” Is this really the type of conduct we want to encourage in our schools?

In reality, studying the Bible, in a secular, neutral fashion, will not encourage unlawful conduct. Similarly, teaching the history and culture of different ethnicities will not promote the overthrow of the government.

The real flaw with HB 2473 and HB 2563 is that the respective bills focus primarily on Christianity and its influence on the Western world. There is no similar legislation that would encourage the study of the Quran or other holy texts.

One of the founding principles of our society is the separation of church and state. Part of the First Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” By introducing a bill that permits the non-secular study of Christianity and no other faith, Arizona is promoting a single religion and violating our constitution.

With the introduction of this law, Arizona lawmakers demonstrate that they are willing to incorporate elective classes only if the classes align with their own personal beliefs. Fear of other races, nationalities and religions has clenched the logic of our lawmakers. Sadly, if this bill passes and no efforts are made to incorporate other perspectives, we’ll only be feeding that ignorance to our children.

My grievance with these bills is not based on a disapproval of studying the Bible. My objection is singling out the Bible and ignoring other cultures and religions.

 

Reach the columnist at eeeaton@asu.edu.