According to The Friendly Atheist, Florida Bill HB 195 would require public schools to include elective Bible classes in the curriculum. The bill, sponsored by Democratic State Representative Kimberly Daniels, has now passed through the State House’s PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee in an 11-3 vote.
The bill would require schools to offer “objective” classes on the Old Testament, New Testament, or both. Offering classes like these is already legal, but this bill would make offering the classes a requirement.
One Democrat, Representative Jennifer Webb cast a “no” vote for the bill. She wanted to know how a class on the bible could be taught objectively.
“I did find nine federal court decisions, including one from Florida, ruling that public school Bible courses were unconstitutional in whole or in part,” Webb said. “In Gibson v. Lee County, which is a decision from the Middle District of Florida — my district — the court invalidated a Bible history course of the New Testament because it could not conceive how the resurrection of miracles could be taught as secular history.”
Representative Eskamani asked about other religious texts. “My family is Iranian-American. My family identifies with Islam,” Eskamani said. “Would you consider adding the Quran to your bill to be a friendly amendment, as another holy book that can be taught ‘objectively,’ to your language?”
Daniels replied: “No.”
Forcing schools to offer these courses could be seen as unconstitutional, because it undermines the doctrine of the separation of church and state. Beyond constitutional concerns, forcing schools to hire teachers for the bible course would take away resources from other areas of the school. For example, if a school has to hire a bible teacher, the English program may get less funding.
If the bill makes it out of the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee, it will go to the Education subcommittee and then the State House for a vote.