Opinion

West Views: Reference religion, but don’t stock religious texts

Religion has played an integral role throughout human history in the creation — and in some cases, the destruction — of civilizations. Mankind has fought and died for it. It has inspired tremendous acts of bravery, courage and self-sacrifice; it has also inspired unconscionable acts of terror and evil.

It has been the impetus of laws that billions of people have had to live by — and continue to live by to this day. The role it should play in those laws has been and will continue to be debated for years to come. Where does one’s freedom of religion impinge upon another’s right to live his or her life as he or she chooses?

Whether you’re religious or not, you can’t deny the subject has been of profound significance to humanity for centuries. So to say it should be completely shut out of the school system would be to do our youngsters a great disservice. How can they have a decent understanding of history, civics or current events without at least a basic, nuts-and-bolts concept of religion?

Even many of us who consider ourselves religious are remarkably ignorant of how our faiths differ from others. If we’re really going to follow the advice of those “coexist” bumper stickers, wouldn’t it help if we at least understood one another better?

Therefore, it would be wrong to suggest that schools should steer clear entirely of religion. However, there’s a way we can provide a well-rounded education without opening up the can of worms that would surely be opened if any specific religious texts are brought into classrooms. And that includes the Bible.

As you’ve probably heard, the Idaho Republican Central Committee passed a resolution to permit public schools to use the Bible 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, archeology, music, sociology and other topics where an understanding of the Bible may be useful or relevant.”

Actually, that’s a watered-down version of the original proposal, which would encourage optional Bible classes to be available to students.

Of course, an Idaho legislator would have to draw up and introduce such a bill in the Legislature, where it would have to go through the legislative process and be signed into law by the governor.

If you’re wondering how LDS seminary students fit in to all of this, they are allowed to take some school time to attend the seminary, but the school system does not teach those classes and is not affiliated with them in any way, and the students do not receive credit for them. They are entirely autonomous from the public school system.

As far as the Bible is concerned, there are occasions in history, civics or literature classes where referencing a few passages would be justified and appropriate, but it’s hard to imagine how opening the King James text would be beneficial in a biology class.

Or should it be the American Standard Version? Or the Good News Translation? Or the Catholic Bible? What about the Book of Mormon?

Do you see the problem here? To say nothing of what some parents would say if a teacher passed out copies of the Koran to give students a better understanding of where ISIS is coming from. Can you imagine the outcry?

Why are Islamic terrorists waging jihad against the United States? Teaching kids the passages in the Koran that these people use to justify their actions makes sense in a current events class.

What are the primary arguments against same-sex marriage? Teaching kids the passages in the Bible (and other religious texts) that religious people use to back their position makes sense in a social studies class (and no, this is not an attempt to equate Islamic terrorism with opposition to gay marriage).

But all of this can be done without having to bring in the full texts themselves. When you start passing out copies of the Bible, it’s too easy to be accused of trying to evangelize — and like it or not, that’s inappropriate at a public school.

Of course, the backers of this resolution will say that isn’t their intention. But there’s still a strain among those from another generation within the GOP that believes the country has gone to hell, and it all started when the Bible was taken out of public schools. And if we could just get the Bible back in there in come capacity …

Referencing religion in apropos situations to teach history, geography and civics is fine, but it can be done without bringing in the Bible itself. Religious education belongs in private schools, in churches and in the home, not in the public school system.

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