WASHINGTON – Lawmakers in several states are pushing legislation aimed at making Bible literacy classes available in public schools, and President Donald Trump couldn't be more pleased.
Following a "Fox and Friends" discussion of the issue Monday, the president tweeted, "Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!"
So far, legislative proposals in at least six states – Florida, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Virginia, and West Virginia – would encourage schools to offer elective classes on the Bible and its historical significance.
And the American Civil Liberties Union notes that just last year, Bible literacy bills were also considered in Alabama, Iowa, and West Virginia. Those measures, however, were not passed.
"The Bible is an integral part of our society and deserves a place in the classroom," said state Rep. Aaron McWilliams (R-ND) who is a co-sponsoring a bill that would require North Dakota public high schools to offer such courses.
This push for Bible literacy comes as a result of the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation's Project Blitz, a faith-based initiative coordinated by several Christian groups. The goal of the initiative is to "protect the free exercise of traditional Judeo-Christian religious values and beliefs in the public square, and to reclaim and properly define the narrative which supports such beliefs."
Not everyone, however, is a fan of this legislative campaign for scriptural literacy, with critics saying such bills violate the Constitution's so-called separation of church and state.
"State legislators should not be fooled that these bills are anything more than part of a scheme to impose Christian beliefs on public schoolchildren," Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told USA Today.
And Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, suggested the movement is nothing more than an attempt to indoctrinate students with pro-Christian propaganda.
"They have put out a more than 100-page playbook that lays out very plainly their strategy into tiers of bills that they want to pass, and the last tier is promoting a particular religious point of view for legislation," USA Today quoted Tyler. "Anything that might send a message to our children that you have to be a Christian to be a full American is extremely problematic."
McWilliams hit back, saying that while "there's a separation of church and state" there is no "separation of books from education."
He went on to note that unless schools allow education about religion, the state will inevitably find itself "establishing a religion of secularism within our school by not having anything else."