(UPDATED, 1:57 p.m., with GOP resolution.)
Idaho Republicans went on record supporting Bible instruction in Idaho schools — to an extent.
Meeting in Idaho Falls over the weekend, the GOP Central Committee approved a resolution supporting using the Bible in schools, on a voluntary basis.
The resolution, presented by Idaho County Republican chair Marge Arnzen, encourages legislators to draft a bill allowing public schools to use the Bible “for reference purposes.” Specifically, the resolution says the Bible may be used “to further the study of literature, comparative religion, English and foreign languages, U.S. and world history, comparative government, law, philosophy, ethics, astronomy, biology, geology, world geography, archaeology, music, sociology, and other topics of study where an understanding of the Bible may be useful or relevant.”
The resolution generated some debate — and was the subject of some rewrite, according to Melissa Davlin of “Idaho Reports,” who covered the weekend’s proceedings. Some Republicans questioned whether the resolution violated the state Constitution, and said it could open the door to using the Quran or other religious texts in school. Republicans amended Arnzen’s original resolution, deleting language that would have calling on lawmakers to pass a bill encouraging optional Bible classes in school. Ultimately, the amended resolution passed 12-3.
Here, in full, is the GOP resolution:
WHEREAS, the Idaho Constitution Preamble states: “We, the people of the State of Idaho, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom to secure its blessings and promote our common welfare do establish this Constitution”; and
WHEREAS, the Idaho Republican Platform states: “We believe the strength of our nation lies with our faith and reliance on God our Creator, the individual and the family…”; “We believe the U.S. Constitution is the greatest and most inspired document to govern a nation…”; and “We believe Idahoans must protect the principles and values that have made us strong”; and
WHEREAS, in 1782, the U.S. Congress voted this resolution: “The Congress of the United States recommends and approves the Holy Bible for use in all schools,” and authorized a loan of money to help the printing and distribution of 10,000 copies to be made available to the public primarily for public schools; and
WHEREAS, the use of the Bible for literary and historic value is consistent with the 1st amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1963 case of Abington School District v. Schempp declared that the Bible is worth studying for its literary qualities and its influence on history; and
WHEREAS, the broader based exposure to Biblical literature and history enhances cultural literary of the individual, and in 1980, the Supreme Court ruling of Stone v. Braham stated that “the Bible can constitutionally be used in an appropriate study of history, civilization, ethics, comparative religion, or the like,” and
WHEREAS, the Bible can be utilized in public schools in a non-religious, non-sectarian, and non- denominational manner to inform the study of secular disciplines, consistent with the provisions of the Idaho Constitution, Article 9, Section 6 and Idaho Code 33-1603; and
WHEREAS, Idaho public schools shall not infringe upon students’, teachers’, staff members’, and administrators’ freedom of speech, as guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and the Idaho Constitution, Article 1, Section 9;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, That the Idaho State Central Committee encourages the Idaho legislature to draft and support a bill stating that the Bible is expressly permitted to be used in Idaho public schools for reference purposes to further the study of literature, comparative religion, English and foreign languages, U.S. and world history, comparative government, law, philosophy, ethics, astronomy, biology, geology, world geography, archaeology, music, sociology, and other topics of study where an understanding of the Bible may be useful or relevant.