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Author Topic:   Georgia Passes Bill to Fund Bible Courses in Public High Schools
BMG
Member (Idle past 2743 days)
Posts: 356
From: Southwestern U.S.
Joined: 03-16-2006


Message 1 of 27 (299346)
03-29-2006 12:39 PM


An article in yesterday's LA Times states:

Georgia's Legislature on Monday passed a bill to fund elective Bible courses in public schools, sparking concern among 1st Amendment advocates and generating praise from lawmakers worried that children are losing their grasp on one of Western civilization's most influential texts.

I would like to throw my two cents worth, if I may. Although I am not a Christian, I believe the teaching of the Bible in public schools is not a breach of the 1st amendment, if and only if it is not "preached" as irrefutable truth, and attempts to convert students; and, if it falls into the category of philosophy or literature, not history.

But I do have some problems with this action. First, if Christianity is to be taught, why is there not equal time given to Islam? or Buddhism? Hinduism? Taoism? Second, how does one decide if a teacher has transgressed the line of teaching into preaching?

Many questions need answering. So, what are your opinions on the issue? Should this bill be razed and deemed unconstitutional? Or should it be allowed to reintroduce children to "one of Western civilization's most influential texts"?


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Adminnemooseus
Director
Posts: 3923
Joined: 09-26-2002


Message 2 of 27 (299363)
03-29-2006 1:42 PM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.

This topic could have been started directly into the In The News forum.

I think it better belongs in the "Education and Creation/Evolution" forum, thus here it is.

Adminnemooseus

This message has been edited by Adminnemooseus, 03-29-2006 02:06 PM


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Heathen
Member
Posts: 1067
From: Brizzle
Joined: 09-20-2005


Message 3 of 27 (299368)
03-29-2006 1:58 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by BMG
03-29-2006 12:39 PM


Is this against the will of the people?
My Initial response is that the people of this state voted in their governors/ representatives. so I would expect that these representatives are reflecting the will of the people.

That said, democracy only works when you are part of the majority.


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Modulous
Member (Idle past 684 days)
Posts: 7789
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


Message 4 of 27 (299376)
03-29-2006 2:35 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by BMG
03-29-2006 12:39 PM


Religious Education
Bible Study classes are fine and I don't see a problem with them...but I think it would be better to simply have a religious studies class or a theology class or perhaps a general religious texts study. There's no reason to just study the Holy Bible, I think it would be wonderful to study other influential (over the western world) religious texts such as the Talmud and the Qu'ran. I think doing that would be a far more positive experience.

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Posit
Inactive Member


Message 5 of 27 (299383)
03-29-2006 2:55 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by Heathen
03-29-2006 1:58 PM


For those interested, the text of the bill can be found here:

http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2005_06/search/hb1663.htm

A couple minor points first.

(D) Funds for the presentation of instruction shall be provided by the school board. If school board funding is not available, then the funds may be raised by the private sector;

This seems to leave the door open for churches to fund the classes.

(E) The teaching about religion in public schools and the presentation or offering of an elective course in Bible study, comparative religion, or both in the secondary schools is expressly permitted and is constitutional;

Maybe its commonplace, but it strikes me as odd to include in the wording of a law an assertion that the law is constitutional. It doesn't mention whether its referring to the Georgia or the U.S. Constitution, either.

The main problem I see with the bill is this: Its purpose is give permission for schools to teach a course on the Bible. Presumably without such legistlation schools cannot teach a course on any religious text. Therefore, by permitting teaching of the Bible without also permitting the teaching of other religious texts, the bill promotes one religion over another.


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mark24
Member (Idle past 3775 days)
Posts: 3857
From: UK
Joined: 12-01-2001


Message 6 of 27 (299384)
03-29-2006 3:00 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by BMG
03-29-2006 12:39 PM


Infixion,

But I do have some problems with this action. First, if Christianity is to be taught, why is there not equal time given to Islam? or Buddhism? Hinduism? Taoism? Second, how does one decide if a teacher has transgressed the line of teaching into preaching?

I want equal time for evolution in these classes, an alternative view needs to be presented. I also want stickers inside each bible stating that Christianity is just one of many religions.

Mark


There are 10 kinds of people in this world; those that understand binary, & those that don't

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crashfrog
Member (Idle past 47 days)
Posts: 19762
From: Silver Spring, MD
Joined: 03-20-2003


Message 7 of 27 (299386)
03-29-2006 3:07 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by Posit
03-29-2006 2:55 PM


Maybe its commonplace, but it strikes me as odd to include in the wording of a law an assertion that the law is constitutional. It doesn't mention whether its referring to the Georgia or the U.S. Constitution, either.

Well, the legislature doesn't have the standing to define a law as constitutional, and certainly a law can't define itself as constitutional. Laws often are written with an explanitory context (i.e. "fake Pokemon cards, being a danger to our youths, the legislature does hereby etc etc"), however, and the purpose of this language, I think, is nothing more than the legislature reminding the readers of the law of what the judiciary has already decided.

Its purpose is give permission for schools to teach a course on the Bible. Presumably without such legistlation schools cannot teach a course on any religious text.

I don't think that's true. The purpose of this bill is to allocate funding for such instruction. The law can't make something constitutional, and it can't make something legal, because all things are legal that are not made illegal by law, right? All this law seems to do is affirm the legality of teaching about the Bible, and provide some funds to do so. Now, I think you could use this law and the 14th amendment to obtain funding to teach, say, the Koran. If you're gonna fund the study of one religion's impact on Western society, there's an argument that you have to fund all of them.


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Posit
Inactive Member


Message 8 of 27 (299408)
03-29-2006 4:42 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by crashfrog
03-29-2006 3:07 PM


I suppose you're right. Its purpose isn't to give permission for teaching classes on the Bible, but to provide funding.

Still, while technically the funding could be used to teach a class on the Koran or some other religious text, given the bill's detailed guidelines for teaching classes on the Bible, it will be difficult to argue that the purpose and effect is not to promote one religious text over others.


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jar
Member
Posts: 32723
From: Texas!!
Joined: 04-20-2004
Member Rating: 1.7


Message 9 of 27 (299425)
03-29-2006 5:37 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by BMG
03-29-2006 12:39 PM


As usual, the Devil will be in the Details.
There is an open thread on the question of Sacred Studies as part of general public education here.

I personally favor having Sacred Studies as part of the general education simply because religion does have and has had such a great influence on history. I know that in my case, having classes that pointed out the inconsistencies found in the Bible, that exposed me to other religious and philosophical systems, had a very large influence both in my beliefs and in strengthening those beliefs.

I wounder if some of our more vocal Christians here at EvC would let me teach a Bible Study class to their kids? ;)


Aslan is not a Tame Lion

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subbie
Member (Idle past 324 days)
Posts: 3509
Joined: 02-26-2006


Message 10 of 27 (299438)
03-29-2006 6:44 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by BMG
03-29-2006 12:39 PM


All right, I've been coming here a month or two and, from time to time, struggled to keep up with some of you science types, and some of you religious types, when the conversation veered into a technical direction. Finally, I've got a topic square in my field of expertise.

The First Amendment states, in part, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...." As the Supreme Court has intepreted this clause since 1947, it means that neither a state nor the federal government may set up a church or pass laws that aid one religion, aid all religions or prefer one religion over another. More recently, in 1973, the Court articulated a three-part test, called the Lemon test, after the case in which the Court laid it out. Under the Lemon test, governmental action runs afoul of the First Amendment if it has a primary purpose or effect of advancing religion, or if it results in excessive governmental entanglement in religion.

It's possible that the legislature included the statement that the law is constitutional in an effort to forestall an argument that their purpose was to advance religion. Such a statement is considered as evidence by a court in any challenge to the statute, but it is not conclusive. Of more value would be a statement of a clear non-secular purpose. The concern of "lawmakers" expressed in the quote from the OP that "children and losing their grasp on one of Western civilization's most influential texts" strongly suggests to me, however, that the real purpose here is to advance a particular religion.

The second question is whether the law has an effect of advancing religion. Obviously, generally bible study courses have an effect of advancing religion, that's why churches have them. However, it's conceivable that the state could structure the course in a way, as others have suggested, so that the courses are instructing rather than preaching. However, given that the law by its terms only provides funding for bible studies, it's hard to see how the state can argue that the statute doesn't aid one religion over another.

There is also a substantial entanglement issue. There are many different christian denominations. Each of them has different takes on different portions of the bible. Exactly which interpretation will the state present? Or which version of the bible will be used? Certainly it's forseeable that the state could find itself entangled in a number of different religious problems in developing a curriculum.

These are a few thoughts that occur to me immediately. If I had to guess, I would guess that this statute will fall. However, Justice Scalia has consistently expressed dissatisfaction with the Lemon test. Justice Thomas is, in the vast majority of cases, a clone of Scalia. I don't know what Chief Justice Roberts's and Jusitice Alito's views are on the Establishment Clause. This case would give them a perfect opportunity to take the Court's analysis in a different direction if they wanted to.


Those who would sacrifice an essential liberty for a temporary security will lose both, and deserve neither. -- Benjamin Franklin

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Posit
Inactive Member


Message 11 of 27 (299444)
03-29-2006 7:04 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by subbie
03-29-2006 6:44 PM


There is also a substantial entanglement issue. There are many different christian denominations. Each of them has different takes on different portions of the bible. Exactly which interpretation will the state present? Or which version of the bible will be used? Certainly it's forseeable that the state could find itself entangled in a number of different religious problems in developing a curriculum.

The legislators appear to have anticipated this issue. The bill reads:

"No student shall be required to use one version as the sole text of the Old or New Testament. If a student desires to use as the basic text a different version of the Old or New Testament from that chosen by the local board of education or teacher, he or she shall be permitted to do so."

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jar
Member
Posts: 32723
From: Texas!!
Joined: 04-20-2004
Member Rating: 1.7


Message 12 of 27 (299457)
03-29-2006 7:25 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by Posit
03-29-2006 7:04 PM


As usual, the Legislators simply showed their ignorance.
There is not even a single Canon in the Christian Church.


Aslan is not a Tame Lion

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macaroniandcheese 
Suspended Member (Idle past 2508 days)
Posts: 4258
Joined: 05-24-2004


Message 13 of 27 (299472)
03-29-2006 8:03 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by Heathen
03-29-2006 1:58 PM


Re: Is this against the will of the people?
well see. the thing is that democracy must preserve the inherent rights of the people including the minority. democracy demands the rights guaranteed in the constitution. democracy isn't just majority rule, it's more than that.

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subbie
Member (Idle past 324 days)
Posts: 3509
Joined: 02-26-2006


Message 14 of 27 (299476)
03-29-2006 8:33 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by Posit
03-29-2006 7:04 PM


Entanglement issues
Posit, that provision may or may not help with the entanglement problem. They still have to deal with the issue of which denomination's take are they going to present. And the school boards apparently will still have to choose which version to use, even if students can opt out and use a different version.


Those who would sacrifice an essential liberty for a temporary security will lose both, and deserve neither. -- Benjamin Franklin

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Funkaloyd
Inactive Member


Message 15 of 27 (299483)
03-29-2006 9:04 PM


The LA Times writes:

...worried that children are losing their grasp on one of Western civilization's most influential texts.

The Bill of Rights?


  
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