Idaho Legislators Debate Using Bible in Curriculum


The Idaho Republican Party is looking to allow public schools in the state to use the Bible as a textbook in their curriculum for a variety of subjects.

David Johnston, Republican Party Executive Director, said the use of the book would not be required in public schools in the state, but rather offered as an option. Any use of the Bible in public schools would be left up to the discretion of school administrators, who would be able to write the curriculum themselves, so long as they stay within state laws and are compliant with the US Constitution.

"I don't see it as a forcing upon anybody or interfering with it," said Johnston. "Whether it be geography, history, literature or frankly just the study of the world religions; if there is a school district that thinks having the Bible as part of the curriculum would be useful, this resolution is basically saying, ‘we support the idea of allowing them to have that tool in their tool box.'"

Marge Arnzen, the Idaho County chair of the Republican Party, submitted the proposal, citing the right to freedom of speech guaranteed to students and educators under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the US Constitution as well as the Idaho Constitution. The Establishment Clause, or freedom of religion, was not mentioned, which is included in the Bill of Rights' First Amendment.

Citizens in the state have mixed feelings on the subject, with some agreeing with the move and the freedom of speech argument, while others say that in cases of using tax dollars, there needs to be a separation of church and state, reports Kelsey McFarland for KBOI2. Opponents approve of the use of the text for such classes as world history, literature, and comparative religion, where discussions already include the Bible. They say they do not want it used for science-based classes including astronomy, biology, and geology.

"While the Bible could add value to a number of curricula… it's not widely recognized for being much help with plate tectonics," Ars Technica's John Timmer wrote.

The original resolution proposed by Republicans would also allow public schools to offer elective classes where students would have the chance to study the Bible. Those classes would only be made available if parents, students, or school district officials requested it.

However, that language was taken out of the final proposal after several members of the Central Committee "expressed concern with other religious texts, such as the Quran being used in the same way," the Idaho Public Television's Melissa Davlin reported.

"They got rid of the part that could be legal, and left in parts that could easily violate the law," Mehta wrote. "It's just another way to get Creationism into public schools."

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