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CAIR-Florida Questions New State Bill Proposing Bible Studies in Public Schools

By By Yaremi Farinas, For CBS | CBS12 News, On 28 January 2019, Read Original
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Bible studies course proposed in new state bill By Yaremi Farinas WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) — Reading, writing and religion. A state lawmaker just filed a bill that would allow Bible study and religion in public high schools. State Representative Kimberly Daniels represents the Jacksonville area and is no stranger to faith-based legislation. Last year, she pushed for all schools to display the words “In God We Trust” on school campuses after the mass shooting in Parkland. Now, people are talking about her “Study of the Bible and Religion” bill. The bill calls for voluntary Bible courses in high school. To be clear, the courses would be voluntary, but districts would be required to offer it. “It’s an elective they can practice it or not. They don’t have to,” Paul Bozik said. Bozik sees nothing wrong with his grandchildren taking Bible studies as a high school elective. “I think there ought to be opportunity for parents and children who want to get some religious background get some,” he said. Right now, state school districts have the option to offer the courses, but it’s not mandatory. A proposed bill would change that. Florida House Bill 195 filed by State Representative Kimberly Daniels, who is also pastor in Jacksonville, would require all state school districts to offer students, grades 9th to 12th, religion and Bible courses as an elective. “I believe in separation of church and state. I think it should be out of school, even as an elective,” parent Robin Johnson said. Local pastor Dr. Phillip Dukes agrees the courses should be optional. “I am not too much of trying to force people to do things, but it should be a choice. It should be there as a choice,” he said. The bill spells out courses would focus on topics such as the New and Old Testaments of the Bible and Hebrew Scriptures. “We cannot play naive when these bills are introduced,” said Wilfredo Ruiz, with the Council on American Islamic Relations. While Ruiz agrees with the bill, he’s concerned some religions might be left out. “They are introduced for the full purpose of excluding religions other than Judaism and Christianity from the public square,” he said. If passed, the bill would go into effect in July, right before the next school year. Click here to read the bill. CBS12 News reached out to Rep. Daniels to find out why this bill and why now? On Wednesday afternoon, she called back and said, “It’s something that people want. I just don't represent myself. It’s an elective and it’s a choice. My religious beliefs plays a role in everything I do. My faith is not what I do, it’s who I am. And it’s simple as that. I am not ashamed of my faith." CBS12 News also reached out to the American Civil Liberties Union in Florida. The organization release this statement: “There are acceptable ways to teach about the Bible: schools can teach comparative religion classes or about the Bible’s relationship to literature, art or music. However, it is exceedingly difficult to do so in a constitutionally permissible manner. Ultimately, parents, not the government, should be in charge of religion education. To ensure one faith is not promoted over another in our public schools and to protect our student’s First Amendment rights, we’ll continue to monitor this bill to see how it progresses during this legislative session." -- Kirk Bailey, Political Director.


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