Georgia Violates Separation of Church and State

The Georgia Board of Education approved a new slate of classes, which purport to teach the Bible as literature and as a historical source, but will almost certainly become state-funded sermons.

Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams, the Republican who sponsored the plan, said the Bible plays a major role in history and is important in understanding many classic literary works.

“It’s not just ‘The Good Book,'” Williams said. “It’s a good book.”

Charles Haynes of the First Amendment Center, a nonpartisan civil liberties group, has said the Georgia policy is the nation’s first to endorse and fund Bible classes on a statewide level.

The bill approved overwhelmingly in the Legislature was tailored to make it clear the courses would not stray into religious teaching, Williams said.

The measure calls for the courses to be taught “in an objective and nondevotional manner with no attempt made to indoctrinate students.”

In theory, it’s a good idea. There are a lot of works with obvious ideological tones that should still be taught for their historical value; in the West, they include the Bible, the Qur’an, the Communist Manifesto, and the two Treatises of Government. But teaching just the Bible smacks of religious favoritism, since other scriptures, even those that are very relevant to a modern American, are excluded.

And further, in practice, classes will invariably become sermons. Even assuming that most Christian teachers can teach the Bible impartially, which is doubtful, there will be immense pressure on them to preach. Georgia has a large contingent of fundamentalists, who make a ruckus every time someone offends them by teaching evolution. In the land of anti-evolution stickers, I don’t expect Bible classes to remain impartial for more than a day.

8 Responses to Georgia Violates Separation of Church and State

  1. Stentor says:

    Just the Second Treatise. The first is a tedious rebuttal of some forgotten philosopher.

  2. Alon Levy says:

    No, both. The First Treatise is good insofar as it shows what arguments were taken seriously at the time. That Locke had to carefully rebut arguments about primogeniture reveals a lot about the audience he was writing the Second Treatise to.

  3. Bruce says:

    Stories like this one make me wish that it were possible for states to “go Christian” explicitly. I think that it would be less offensive for the state to push Christianity on the grounds that it is entitled to push Christianity by constitutional provision, than to do so under some half-hearted fig leaf. To me, the sacroturf, the smugness and the preposterous notion that legislating “Christianity” however defined is actually in the interest of the general public are as offensive as the government-sponsored proselytizing itself. To me, the brutal “we’re doing this because we can, bozo” is less offensive than the condescending “we’re shoving our crackpot religion down your throat for your benefit.”

    The other cynical benefit of some states being able to make Christianity however defined as the official state religion is that it would act as a magnet to get right-wingers concentrated into those states. By so doing, they would provide two salutary effects to the rest of the country: they tilt the Electoral College in favor of liberals and moderates (Georgia cannot get effectively redder, but Ohio can get bluer) and if it drew Maryland wingers from Maryland to Georgia, it would increase the average IQ of both states.

  4. Phil says:

    A course on the Bible should be taught in schools.

    Be sure to emphasize the parts in Numbers and Deuteronomy where God commands the Israelites to commit total genocide to take over a land or be condemned themselves.

    It is key to understanding the Bible.

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