AS ONE of the most consequential books of all time, the Bible is certainly worthy of study for its literary and historic importance. Indeed, the Supreme Court asserted that in its landmark 1963 Abington ruling, which outlawed the practice of public schools reading the Bible as part of morning prayers. Academic study, though, is clearly not the aim of conservative Christian activists who have undertaken a nationwide push for Bible classes in public schools. That they have been emboldened by Donald Trump’s presidency and seem to be succeeding should be of concern to anyone who values the separation of church and state enshrined in the Constitution.
An increasing number of states, The Post’s Julie Zauzmer reported, are enacting or considering legislation that would encourage high schools to teach the Bible. In 2017, Kentucky became the first state to enact a law establishing standards for elective Bible education, and at least 10 other states have seen the introduction of similar legislation. Bills were enacted in Georgia and Arkansas.
The push is part of an organized legislative effort — unabashedly coined Project Blitz — by the religious right to get states to enact pro-Christian bills that range from requiring public schools to display the national motto of “In God We Trust” to legalizing discrimination against LGBTQ people. Activists are upfront about wanting to protect “the free exercise of traditional Judeo-Christian religious values and beliefs in the public square.” So much for the guidelines — “study of the Bible or religion . . . presented objectively as part of a secular program of education” — that the Supreme Court framed as consistent with the First Amendment. Ms. Zauzmer depicted one classroom in Kentucky where a teacher had posted the blessings of the Beatitudes and asked students to reflect on what lessons could be learned; at another school in Kentucky, student drawings of crosses and Adam and Eve walking with dinosaurs adorned the walls.
Violations of the separation of church and state are not new; the years since the Supreme Court’s ruling involving Pennsylvania public schools have been dotted with legal battles over schools holding prayer rallies, distributing Bibles and other inappropriate proselytizing. What’s new is how Bible instruction is being pushed to help advance an agenda of fundamentalist Christian tenets, and that it is being egged on by the president. “Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of study the Bible,” Mr. Trump tweeted in January. “Starting to make a turn back? Great!”
The United States is a wonderfully diverse country, and its founders were wise in deciding against a government-approved religion. That’s what should be learned in the classroom — and also, apparently, at the White House.