Bible classes threaten secular education in Alabama

A so-called “bible literacy” bill that would allow state-funded public schools to indoctrinate students as early as sixth grade with bible classes is headed to Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s desk. Just weeks after invoking God to justify signing into law a draconian abortion ban, Ivey will again decide the fate of constitutional rights for Alabamians.

The bill, SB 14, encourages Alabama public schools to offer four new religious courses: the study of the Hebrew scriptures of the Old Testament, the study of the New Testament, a course combining the two, and a course in religious history, all of which students in grades six through 12 may take as elective credits.

The Supreme Court has ruled that bible classes can be constitutional in public schools only under very specific circumstances. Legal theory is not the issue, reality is. In practice, it is virtually impossible for schools to ensure that bible classes are being taught free from endorsement of specific religious ideas, making schools susceptible to costly legal challenges.

“In a state ranked 49 out of 50 for childhood education, Alabama’s resources would be far better spent improving secular education that serves all students rather than opening up already strapped public schools to expensive legal liability,” comments FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation stands staunchly opposed to SB 14 and to the infiltration of Christian nationalism into our secular public schools. SB 14 is part of Project Blitz, the Christian fundamentalists’ nationwide legislative push to inject state legislatures with a whole host of religious bills meant to advance Christian nationalism. While politicians often claim that these laws are intended to teach the bible in the context of U.S. history, we know their true agenda is to abuse their access to young and impressionable children and indoctrinate them with religious orthodoxy. Public school bible classes have been attempted across the country and have invariably ended up unconstitutionally promoting religion.

“Project Blitz and Christian nationalism repudiate the values this nation was founded on,” says FFRF’s Director of Strategic Response Andrew L. Seidel.

This bill and others like it are a thinly veiled attempt to convert young and impressionable students to Christianity on the taxpayer’s dime. It is particularly inappropriate for the state to encourage these classes to students as young as sixth grade. Students this age are not typically mature enough for a neutral, unbiased class on comparative religions. Instead, these classes will almost certainly be conducted like a church Sunday school class, in violation of the First Amendment.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

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