Bill That Would Require Florida Public High Schools to Offer Bible Classes Advances to Senate

November 5, 2019 Updated: November 6, 2019

A new bill that would require public high schools in Florida to offer elective courses in Bible study has advanced to the state Senate.

The bill, SB 746, was filed by Sen. Dennis Baxley (R-Fla.) and would require Florida’s public high schools to offer an “objective study of religion.” This would include studies of the Old and New Testaments, as well as Hebrew Scripture. Under current law, schools are permitted but not required to offer these courses.

If the bill passes during the 2020 legislative session, public high schools in Florida would have to offer the religious courses as electives, meaning that students could decide whether or not to take the classes.

Moreover, the bill says courses should follow all state and federal laws and guidelines “in maintaining religious neutrality and accommodating the diverse religious views, traditions, and perspectives of all students in the school” but also “not endorse, favor, or promote or disfavor or show hostility toward a particular religion, religious perspective, or nonreligious faith.”

The House version of the bill, HB 341, was introduced by Rep. Kimberly Daniels (D-Fla.).

Daniels also led HB 839, a successful 2018 provision that requires school districts to display Florida’s motto “In God We Trust.” However, her previous attempt to introduce Bible classes, HB 195, was killed at the subcommittee stage earlier this year.

Bible literacy bills similar to those in Florida have also been introduced in Missouri, North Dakota, Virginia, and West Virginia.

President Donald Trump has shown support for the bill, writing on Twitter earlier this year: “Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!”

A survey by the Pew Research Center found that Americans on average answer about half religious knowledge questions correctly.

A little more than 60 percent of American adults correctly name Genesis as the first book of the Bible, and more than half of them know that the saying “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not one of the Ten Commandments.

About 40 percent of Catholics in the country do not know that their church teaches that the bread and wine used in Communion do not merely symbolize but actually become the body and blood of Christ and about half of Protestants cannot correctly identify Martin Luther as the person whose writings and actions inspired the Protestant Reformation, which made their religion a separate branch of Christianity.

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