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Bible study considered in Florida public schools

by Tatiana Torres

Florida Representative Kim Daniels, a Democrat and author of various faith-based books, proposed House Bill 341, which “requires each school district to offer specified courses relating to religion, Hebrew Scriptures, & Bible to certain students as elective courses.” 

This bill would require Florida public high schools to offer an elective course on the Old Testament and the New Testament. Daniels, who is the founder of Spoken Word Ministries, Kimberly Daniels Ministries International and Word Bible College, triumphantly urged for the state’s motto “In God We Trust” to be spread in every Florida public school. 

“This is a public policy issue, not a worship issue,” Daniels said before the House PreK-12 Quality Subcommittee approved the measure (HB 195).The proposal has even earned Twitter praise from President Trump and support from conservative Christian groups. 

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

An existing state law, approved in 2002, already gives school districts the option of providing courses that include the “objective study” of the Bible. Some of the lawmakers – and leaders of Christian groups supporting the bills – said they want to restore traditional values in schools and give students a chance to study the religious text deeply. 

The proposed law would require school districts to make those courses available, and students could decide whether to enroll. The bill does not require students to take the classes. However, there has been heated controversy surrounding this topic. 

Noah Kurtz, University of Tampa sophomore entrepreneurship and MIS major is an alumnus from Jesuit High School in Tampa. He weighed in on this topic. 

“No one should be forced to learn about any religion,” said Kurtz. “However, I do think the Bible has a lot to offer in value and teachings and coming from a Catholic background I know it helps develop morals and character. Nevertheless, there should be equal education available to teach about other world religions to avoid any kind of religious discrimination.” 

This year, Bible literacy bills have been introduced in Florida, Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota, Virginia and West Virginia, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. 

“It is definitely a good idea to start exposing different ideas and beliefs to people at a younger age and this could definitely help with that,” said Kurtz. “I believe that people should be okay with other people’s beliefs and shouldn’t have any irrational feelings towards them if they do actually believe in different things.”

Ryan Radke, UT sophomore allied health major and alumni from Jesuit High School in Tampa, shared his initial thoughts reading about the proposed law. 

“I disagree with the proposition,” said Radke. “I understand the importance of educating children about religion and about the Bible, but giving the children and their parents a choice on whether or not to take a class that applies to their beliefs is also important. This bill would be significantly be better if it included other world religions.”

If passed, the bill would take effect in July 2020. 

Tatiana Torres can be reached at tatiana.torres@spartans.ut.edu

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