Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has just made the teaching of what is referred to as ‘Biblical content” in public schools law. A group that advocates for the civil rights of non-Christians says that the law is just one “part of Project Blitz, a coordinated attempt by the Religious Right to enshrine Christian nationalism in our schools.”
The law, called SB 83, is supposed to allow public school children to obtain “knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture, including literature, art, music, mores, oratory, and public policy.”
While SB 83 just became law, there are versions of it that go back more than a decade. The legal grounds for the reasoning behind these laws and the resulting classes would be shaky at best:
“The purpose of such courses shall be to accommodate the rights and desires of those teachers and students who wish to teach and study the Old and New Testaments.”
The bill that just became law does instruct educators that the classes should be “taught in an objective and nondevotional manner with no attempt made to indoctrinate students as to either the truth or falsity of the biblical materials or texts from other religious or cultural traditions.”
However, there is part of it that says that if no state money funds the classes, people connected to the school system in Georgia can teach the Bible as truth if they like.
Now, there are clauses in the bill to ensure that First Amendment protections are adhered to. However, this will surely be challenged in court. Groups like Americans United for Separation of Church and State are already sounding the alarm. They tweeted:
Georgia's Senate just unanimously passed a bill, SB 83, to add 3 new courses on the Christian Bible to public schools, bringing the total to 5 courses.
— Americans United (@americansunited) March 4, 2019
They also said of SB 83 as it was being debated:
“Our public schools should not act like Sunday schools, but that’s exactly what this bill invites.”
This will be quite the court battle, especially if similar bills happen in other states.
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Shannon Barber is a progressive queer feminist and budding political scientist. She is passionate about issues of social justice, including but not limited to racial equality, criminal justice reform, pro-Black politics, and LGBTQ equality. She hopes to change the world, one mind at a time.