Efforts to infuse “Bible literacy” courses into the public school system have garnered so much attention, President Donald Trump is tweeting about the topic.
Trump lauded the idea of “giving students the option of studying the Bible” in school.
Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 28, 2019
The president’s tweet came not long after Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” aired a segment reporting on the “Bible literacy” bills that have been introduced in six state legislatures.
This year, such proposals are under consideration in North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia, Virginia and Florida.
The “Bible literacy” proposals would “require or encourage public schools to offer elective classes on the Bible’s literary and historical significance,” according to a USA Today report. Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) signed legislation in June 2017, paving the way for similar courses in public education.
Most of the proposals that have bubbled to the surface are the result of a coordinated effort called Project Blitz, which has been organized by a host of Christian advocacy groups. The initiative’s stated purpose 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.”
While those behind the effort have claimed the “Bible literacy” courses are strictly educational and not about proselytizing, critics have claimed the classes could cross constitutional lines.
Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, which advocates keeping government out of religious matters, criticized the group effort, claiming the “last tier is promoting a particular religious point of view for legislation.”
She went on to argue any legislation that might “send a message to our children that you have to be a Christian to be a full American is extremely problematic.”
But Tyler’s criticism of the bills up for consideration seems to misunderstand the point of the courses, which would be entirely optional and taught only as electives.
North Dakota state Rep. Aaron McWilliams (R), one of the co-sponsors of his state’s “Bible literacy” courses, explained Monday morning on “Fox & Friends” the optional classes would help students understand the role Scripture played in the founding of the United States as well as teach them about the historical significance of biblical literature.
And David Barton, a right-wing activist and the founder of WallBuilders, one of the Christian groups associated with Project Blitz, said Tyler’s concerns mischaracterize both the faith-based initiative and the six bills currently under consideration.
“Bible literacy is a good thing to have,” he explained. “For me, the issue is that many schools don’t [offer Bible studies courses] because they think they can’t legally. We are saying, ‘Well, yes, you can.’”