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Monday, August 17, 2009

Texas

Starting with this 2009-2010 school year, Texas high schools will be required to offer elective courses in the Bible.

I ask the question: Why?

Required and elective is interesting.

Here’s a link to the text of Texas House Bill 1287 which was passed in 2007.

Sec. 28.011 “The Bible’s Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and New Testament” is interesting.

“Sec. (i)  This section does not prohibit the board of trustees of a school district from offering an elective course based on the books of a religion other than Christianity. In determining whether to offer such a course, the board may consider various factors, including student and parent demand for such a course and the impact such books have had on history and culture.” is interesting.

Here’s a report from The Statesman, an Austin newspaper which will provide more local background.

A quote from The Statesman article: “Many school districts, including Austin and most other Central Texas districts, say their current high school curriculum already satisfies the requirement because it addresses world religions in history and geography courses.”

Which brings me back to my original question: Why? Why legislate required elective courses? Why legislate courses in “The Old Testament” and “The New Testament”, which simply by naming them that way focuses on Christianity?

Thinking about the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, I understand that this Texas law does not establish a state religion (Establishment Clause) nor does it limit or restrict a citizen’s right to practice any religion they choose (Free Exercise Clause). But I have to say it sure as heck feels to me like the phrase “slippery slope” was coined for just such an occasion as this.

And I would loved to have seen the reaction in the Texas Legislature had this same legislation been introduced with “Qur'an” or “Tao Te Ching” substituted for “Bible” throughout H.B. 1287.

6 comments:

RoasterBoy said...

Jim at Notes to Leicester has an interesting book review on our nation's complex history regarding religion and government: Founding Faith by Steven Waldman

Anonymous said...

It's an interesting one. Surely if one wants (elects) to study something more indepth they can do so at college/university? Although, it being elective, at least students are not being forced to study it. But yes, slippery slippery slope indeed.. Ronnie x

Nana Fi said...

Religion is always a slippery slope. At least they can elect if they want to study it but I agree wholeheartedly they should list all of them. Fiona

dancingmorganmouse said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'd always thought it was against your constitution or something to teach religion or even pray in American public schools. Something about separation of Church & State?

Irene said...

I agree with the separation of church and state comment. It will be interesting to follow how this course in a public school pans out.

Pink Granite said...

Hi RoasterBoy -
Thanks for the referral and the link. Jim at Notes to Leicester has solid cogent posts.

Hi Ronnie -
Reading the House Bill was not fun, but seemed necessary. I can't shake that slippery slope feeling and the emphasis on Christianity is very heavy handed.

Hi Fiona -
I prefer the idea of a survey course of "World Religions", especially if they acknowledge atheism and agnosticism as part of the mix.

Hi DMM -
No, you are not wrong. The concept of the separation of church and state lives within the First Amendment to our Constitution. That's why I was referencing its Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses. But like everything else in the U.S. darn near everything is darn near always being challenged or pushed right up to its limits!

Hi Irene -
Yes, what's written on paper in the House Bill and what will eventually be the reality in hundreds of school districts across Texas will be interesting to see.

Thanks All!
- Lee