Republicans never cease to amaze me. There’s currently a Republican Arizona lawmaker out of Tucson promoting a religious studies bill in this years legislative agenda. Terri Proud (R) district 26 wants a law that specifically teaches religion in the classrooms. The Associated Press reports:
Republican Rep. Terri Proud of Tucson sponsored the measure, which asks the state Board of Education to design a course called “The Bible and its Influence on Western Culture.” The course would be an elective at high schools that choose to offer it.
Public schools across the country have generally avoided Bible courses, but hundreds offer such classes as electives.
The bill stipulates that the course maintain “religious neutrality,” and requires the state Attorney General to review the curriculum to ensure it doesn’t conflict with the U.S. Constitution.
Proud, who is on the House Education Committee, said she wants students to learn about the Bible’s influence on art and literature, noting that there are biblical references in everything from Michelangelo’s paintings and Shakespeare’s plays to modern movies and television.
“This is such an essential foundation for our kids’ knowledge,” she said. “We are so engulfed in it.”
If students aren’t taught those references, Proud said, they face a learning gap from high school to college.
Proud said teachers in her district told her they have a fear of mentioning Christianity or the Bible in the classroom, and she hopes the law will give them some guidance.
“There’s nothing wrong with bringing religion into a classroom,” she said. “The issue is we can’t bring devotion.”
So in a 2012 Arizona where Ethnic Studies has just been banned by Republicans promoting an anti-Immigrant agenda, another one of those Republicans is promoting pro religion studies. According to Proud, “the Attorney General for the state of Arizona would have to review the curriculum to ensure it doesn’t conflict with the U.S. Constitution.”
Keep in mind that the current Attorney General for the state of Arizona is Tom Horne, who worked closely with Steve Montenegro (R) district 12 to promote HB2281 while Horne was the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
How will Horne react to this bill that specifically promotes religion in the classrooms, in high schools, and in Tucson nonetheless? Proud is quick to state “There’s nothing wrong with bringing religion into a classroom,” she said. “The issue is we can’t bring devotion.”
Victoria Lopez, a program director with the Arizona office of the American Civil Liberties Union, said a Bible-focused class is “troubling.”
Lopez said it’s difficult for a school to teach such a course without imposing a particular religious view.
“It’s very easy for teachers to cross the line and violate students’ religious rights,” she said. “There’s a lot of room here for those violations to take place.”
Though the course would be an elective, Lopez said it’s a problem that public resources and agencies would be involved in some form of religious study.
We’ll see what kind of legal challenge this bill will bring if it does in fact translate into law and specifically how Attorney General Tom Horne the primary anti ethnic studies advocate will handle this specific studies issue.
For the record, I am a Christian who supports ethnic studies.
Carlos E. Galindo is a radio talk show host & political analyst conducting radio shows in both English and Spanish on four radio stations in Arizona. Mr. Galindo is a weekly contributor to KPFK 98.7 FM Los Angeles and W60 AM Radio, Los Angeles, San Diego and has appeared on CNN, Univision and Telemundo as a political analyst. Mr. Galindo is also an Op-Ed columnist on Prensa Hispana and the Tucson Citizen in Arizona.