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Trump offers encouragement for state efforts to teach Bible literacy in public schools

President Trump walks out to announce a deal with congressional leaders to temporarily reopen the government on Friday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

President Trump gave his blessing Monday to lawmakers in several states who are pushing legislation to allow Bible literacy classes in public schools.

“Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible,” Trump wrote in a morning tweet. “Starting to make a turn back? Great!”

As president, Trump has no formal say in state legislative processes.

His tweet came shortly after a segment on Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends” reporting that bills have been introduced in at least six states that would allow public school children to study the historical significance of the Bible.

The legislation has drawn objections from groups seeking to protect the separation of church and state. The groups argue that the bills are backdoor attempts to promote Christianity in public schools.

The “Fox & Friends” segment included an interview with Aaron McWilliams, a Republican state representative from North Dakota, one of the states where lawmakers are weighing such bills.

“There’s a separation of church and state, but there’s not a separation of books from education,” McWilliams said.

The other states where such bills are under consideration include Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia, Virginia and Florida, according to the Fox News report.

Last year, Bible literacy bills were considered in at least three other states — Alabama, Iowa and West Virginia — but none passed, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which has opposed the efforts.

Lawmakers in Kentucky passed legislation in 2017 creating state regulations for public high schools to offer elective literature courses on the Bible and Hebrew Scriptures.

Trump has made repeated overtures to the evangelical community as president, including advocating abolishment of a provision in the tax code that bans tax-exempt churches from supporting political candidates.

His embrace of Bible literacy drew barbs from critics on Twitter, several of whom pointed to an episode in January 2016 in which then-candidate Trump referred to “two Corinthians” instead of “Second Corinthians” during a speech at Liberty University. His mistake drew laughter from many in the audience at the private Christian school.