Teaching The Bible In Public Schools Will Remain In The GOP Platform. No, Really.
As if this year’s Republican convention couldn’t get any worse, it has somehow managed to top itself already, which, frankly, is saying a lot when you consider the fact that they’re literally nominating Donald-fucking-Trump. The GOP platform committee passed an amendment mandating that the Bible be allowed to be taught in schools as a historical document, according to NBC and Reuters reporters in Cleveland Monday. NBC’s Ginger Gibson tweeted, “Teaching the Bible in public schools remains in Republican platform.”
This addition to the party platform ignores the whole “freedom of religion” and “separation of church and state” laws conservatives bring up when it comes to having the freedom to discriminate against gay people, and then conveniently forget when it comes to letting gay people marry or women choose to not be mothers. Additionally, it could burden sensible teachers in public, secular schools who would paradoxically have to teach our Constitutional rights regarding religion, but simultaneously teach Judeo-Christian-centric curriculum to impressionable youth who have the right to come to their own intellectual conclusions about religion.
This addition to the 2016 platform follows controversy last month in Idaho when a group of Republicans backed a Bible-in-schools initiative during the second day of the state GOP Convention. Idaho Ed News reported: “The GOP’s resolutions committee unanimously backed a proposal calling for an amendment to the state constitution to support voluntary use of the Bible in public schools.”
However, Idaho Governor Butch Otter sided with Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and vetoed the bill, which Wasden pointed out violated the state constitution.
Conservative lawmakers have long fought to influence public education. Some examples: fighting for abstinence-only sex ed that’s resulted in affected states seeing disproportionately high rates of teen pregnancy, fighting the teaching of evolution, sponsoring anti-choice public school programs that ban employees from referring “any student to a medical facility or any provider for the performance of an abortion” and actively teaching propaganda about unborn fetuses, and so on and so forth.
No one is saying Christians shouldn’t be able to read and preach the Bible, but should it really be a part of public schools, where students of all faiths and ethnicities should be learning about history and science and current events from an objective, multicultural angle? Republican lawmakers’ religious fervor and fundamentalism shouldn’t be allowed to repress information, intellectualism, and objective scientific fact.
The results of teaching youths biased, fundamentalist perspectives are frankly alarming. Exhibit A: the aforementioned high rates of teen pregnancy, which contributes to subjecting young women to life in poverty and costs the federal government nearly $9.4 billion annually, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, for public health care, foster care, welfare, and other related expenses. Exhibit B: Rush Limbaugh not knowing the first thing about evolution.
And yet all criticisms of GOP lawmakers who willfully undermine the separation of church and state in public schools are spun by conservatives as part of the imagined “War on Christians,” and I have very little doubt we’ll hear that tried and true phrase when people with common sense proceed to call bullshit on this amendment. Rather than being persecuted or undermined, Christians in an America founded on their religion arguably have privilege when you consider how Congress is 92 percent Christian, and if teaching the Bible in public schools actually becomes a thing, this would serve as just another disturbing example of this privilege.
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, co-chair of the RNC platform committee, confirmed to CNN’s Jake Tapper that she “can’t promise” the platform on abortion will provide exceptions to the party’s anti-choice stance for rape, incest, or even the mother’s life. It’s worth noting Trump himself previously promised these exceptions, and he’s hardly a pro-choice advocate.
Additionally, while this year’s platform will stop short of calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban marriage equality, as it previously has, the platform committee determined that marriage be recognized as the “union of one man and one woman.”
There’s no denying it can be difficult to draw the line where issues of freedom of religion are concerned. But as a general rule, if practicing your religion is impeding other people’s ability to freely practice their own, much like teaching the Bible in school would affect secular teachers and students, that’s where a line ought to be drawn.