In our driving and walking experience, most four-way intersections have a number of stop or caution signs. Unfortunately, the same is not true when politics, religion, education, and legislation intersect. At least once a week, a law enforcement character in one of the dozens of TV shows, grim-faced, tells his colleague and the audience that “I don’t believe in coincidences.” The pronouncement is intended to cue the fan to the fact that one incident is connected with another. Duh!
On January 8, Sen. Bill Carrico (R–Grayson) introduced S1502, a measure to require Virginia’s schools in grades 9–12 to offer an elective course in bible study. The content of the course would include the “Hebrew Scripture/Old Testament or the New Testament or a combined course on both.” The text of the bill directs the Board of Education to produce a curriculum with the purpose
. . . to introduce students to biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture, including literature, art, music, movies, oratory, and public policy. . . . [S]uch courses should maintain religious neutrality and shall not endorse . . . any particular religions or nonreligious perspective.
The legislation clearly ignores the Quran and Native American religions, which are largely oral traditions.
Coincidently, the President issued a tweet on January 2, following a Fox & Friends broadcast promoting bible study in public schools with the tag line “Starting to Come Back.” Oddly, the pastor of the President’s New York City church also tweeted that the President, though a member of his flock, never stepped foot in the church or attended bible classes in the five years he knew of him.
The movement to pour religion into public schools has emerged as a three-fold effort: to require schools to display permanent posters with the motto “In God We Trust”; require schools to display the ten commandments; and require biblical study. All are part of a larger program emanating from the Congressional Prayer Caucus in a program called Project Blitz. The aim is to “restore traditional values in schools.” Virginia’s own Rob Wittman (R–HD06) is on the board of directors.
Another “coincidence” is the statement by Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, in an interview in which she declared that “God wanted Trump to be President.” Once again, the general public is treated to a debate about religion. What is not distinguished is whether the issues are freedom of religion; freedom for religion; or freedom from religion.
In defending New York’s recently passed legislation on abortion against the President’s statements in his State of the Union address, Gov. Andrew Cuomo provided a signal for the four-way intersection:
As a Roman Catholic, I am extremely familiar with the strongly held views of the church. I do not believe religious values should drive political positions.
If this statement were an intersection sign, it might read Freedom From Religion.