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Arizona House Passes Bible Class Bill

The Arizona state House of Representatives just passed a bill that would allow local schools to teach elective courses about the influence of the Bible on American history and American culture. It passed 42-15.

The House debate was passionate.

“This bill was first introduced in 2006 in Alabama by a Democrat,” Proud said. “This isn’t about being Republican. This is about America.”

House Minority Leader Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, said the bill, if it becomes law, will face a constitutional challenge. “And I believe we are going to lose,” he said.

Rep. Ed Ableser, D-Tempe, voted for the bill after unsuccessfully proposing an amendment to also allow schools to teach a course on the Book of Mormon’s influence on Western culture.

The state isn’t going to face a legal challenge; on its face, the bill is constitutional. The problem comes in the implementation at the local level. Inevitably, some local schools are going to use the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools curriculum, or invent their own that is just as bad, and they’re going to get sued. And lose. It’s the Dover trap all over again.

Comments

  1. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says

    Exactly right. The devil is in the implementation, and you just know that the people who most want to implement this are the very people you can’t trust to do it right.

  2. Reginald Selkirk says

    Rep. Ed Ableser, D-Tempe, voted for the bill after unsuccessfully proposing an amendment to also allow schools to teach a course on the Book of Mormon’s influence on Western culture.

    Such a course could be quite interesting, if it were not organized and taught by theocratic ass-hats.

  3. peterh says

    What #4 said. There is a great need for scholarly, hopefully objective understanding of the Bible and its place in our culture. (I doubt outside the LDS community the Book of Mormon has been noticed much – if at all.) But priorities! The American educational system has much ground to cover in math, science, history, critical thinking and basic language competency in order to catch up to most of the industrialized world to devote recession-limited resources to electives.

  4. Alverant says

    Are we finally going to get examples of christian values from the line “This country was founded on christian values!” I hear waaayyy too often? Because I never got an answer, usually I get threats, quotes, or an abrupt change of subject but never an example.

  5. M Groesbeck says

    At the community college where I took most of my lower-division coursework (an educational path I’d recommend considering for anyone else in California worried about the costs of college; the UC system in particular has agreements with the community colleges to make it easy to transfer general-ed credit, lower-division classes are much nicer in a class of 40 than in a class of 400, and the UCs quite like accepting students they won’t have to squeeze into oversized intro classes), there was a “Bible as literature” class. The value of the course depended entirely on which professor was teaching it in a given semester; the one who actually taught it as advertised, and the fundamentalist minister who treated the class as an opportunity to try to convert the students (often under threat of a failing grade). And this may have been in the crazy right-wing corner of Los Angeles county, but still — this is California. If we’re hit-or-miss on actually getting this sort of class right at a post-secondary level, it’s going to be a disaster in most of Arizona.

  6. says

    Exactly right. The devil is in the implementation, and you just know that the people who most want to implement this are the very people you can’t trust to do it right.

    There’s one point I’ve got on my mind. I’ve seen some proposals for “The Bible as literature” classes in the past. If I were naive, I could say it’s a reasonable idea, since the Bible is a big part of our culture’s literary background. It could be seen as analogous to a course about the influence of Homer’s epics or Shakespeare’s plays. On paper, it could sound reasonable. I can imagine a college with a responsible literature professor offering such a course.

    Of course, in the real world, we all know exactly what would happen with a widespread program like that: The fundies would take control, and they just can’t be trusted to keep to the literary aspects. They’d turn the class into a government-backed religious exercise and not-so-secretly recruit bullies to deal with anyone who raises a stink about it.

    If a fundie ever asks me why I’m opposed to Bible classes, I’ll tell them the short version: History shows they can’t be trusted to do it legally.

  7. The Lorax says

    So.. how HAS the Bible influenced America?

    Was it the desire to worship God that sent the pilgrims away from England in the first place? Or wait, was that religious freedom?

    Will we learn where in the Constitution (not the Declaration of Independence; both important documents, but rather different from each other) does “our Lord” appear, other than the Latin translation of “Anno Domini” at the bottom?

    Was it the Bible that finally ended slavery?

    Was it the Bible which perpetuated the Industrial Revolution, that brought in the Roaring Twenties, that crashed the stock market?

    Was it the Bible which caused Hitler to massacre Jews, or fundamentalist fanatical devotion to their Emperor which drove Japanese pilots to kamikazi? Or was it the Bible which encouraged Americans to stop these atrocities?

    Was it the Bible that inspired rock and roll, or were all those Christians just upset with the good Christian boy Elvis because of sheer coincidence?

    Was it the Bible that caused Joe McCarthy to go on his witch hunt, or was it just Communism?

    Was it the Bible which allowed women to vote, allowed blacks to be considered citizens?

    Was it the Bible that sent us to Vietnam? Was it the Bible that protested against it?

    Was it the Bible that made one giant leap for Mankind?

    Was it the Bible that developed computers?

    Was it the Bible that is now allowing homosexuals to marry?

    With respect to xkcd, I’m only going to say this once, and I need you all to listen carefully, because it’s important:

    FUCK. THAT. SHIT.

  8. Chiroptera says

    The state isn’t going to face a legal challenge; on its face, the bill is constitutional.

    Sure, if you read the words with their literal meaning, assuming that the writers of the bill were honest and up front with what they want, then, yes, the bill is Constitutional.

    -

    Inevitably, some local schools are going to use the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools curriculum, or invent their own that is just as bad….

    Which is what the supporters of this bill intend.

    The problem is that the words in the bill aren’t meant to be read with their usual English meanings. Rather, the whole bill is just code word for “Conservative Evangelical Protestant Christian indoctrination.”

    Those who will try to implement this law know exactly what the code words are supposed to mean and what the bill is really trying to do. And they will implement them in good faith (that is, good faith with respect to the intentions of the writers of the bill). And then…

    …they’re going to get sued. And lose.

    -

    It’s the Dover trap all over again.

    Did you realize how good this analogy is when you wrote it?

    Just like “intelligent design” is meant to be a sciencey version of creationism, so this bill is supposed to be Protestant Evangelicalism with a thin veneer of “stuff that kind of sounds like history and literature.”

  9. cottonnero says

    Christ. It would be cheaper and more efficient to have a bill that requires three school districts in the state, randomly selected, to pay a million dollars each to six randomly selected law firms.

  10. D. C. Sessions says

    The Book of Mormon amendment is the hook: it clearly establishes legislative intent.

    I’d have to look at the district Ableser represents; at a guess it’s the eastern part of Tempe, near the Mesa city line. He won’t lose any votes from his Mormon constituents over this one.

  11. bobcarroll says

    I recall reading that courses like this have been set up in the past, and they died a natural death, since few students signed up for them. Optional, extra work, just what your average teener wants.

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