Over 80% of the 200-plus voting Idaho Republican State Central Committee members were represented at the Committee’s summer meeting held on June 5-6, 2015. These Committee members are elected to represent Republicans in every Idaho county and legislative district. In addition to these elected Committee members, other Idaho Republican citizens participated in the work of the summer meeting by writing and presenting on rules or resolutions. I helped to write and then present on the “Bible Use in Idaho Public Schools” resolution, which was passed by the Idaho and Bonner County Republican central committees, submitted by the Idaho County Republican chair to the Idaho Republican state office, and “carried” by this same chair to the summer meeting. The “Bible Use in Idaho Public Schools” resolution passed the entire assembly of the state central committee with nearly unanimous support.
In the interest of clear communication, I present the entire text of the approved resolution for your review.
A Resolution of the Idaho State Central Committee Providing for Bible Use in Idaho Public Schools
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 Republican 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.
END OF RESOLUTION
Also in the interest of clear communication, let me elaborate on what this resolution does and does not do.
- It does establish state Republican Party direction for legislation supporting the stated objective.
- It does make it clear that Idaho Republicans support freedom of speech in Idaho’s public schools.
- It does adhere to the Idaho Constitution Article IX, Section 6.
- It does provide direction consistent with Supreme Court’s rulings on use of the Bible in education.
- It does not seek to establish direction to use the Bible for religious instruction.
- It does not provide exact wording for proposed legislation.
Let me explain why the citizens who wrote this resolution believe this legislation is necessary. Contrary to our first amendment rights, our culture has shifted from one where the first immigrants (the Pilgrims) brought the Bible to our shores and the first settlers taught their children to read by the Bible, to one where public schools only have the Bible “available” in the school library (if at all), but don’t use it. To provide a present-day illustration of this circumstance, I asked the resolutions committee members and audience to indicate whether they or their children had ever used the Bible during their Idaho public school years. Out of about 40 persons, only three indicated they had used the Bible in school. That means there were only three “uses” out of a collective 520 years of public education! If the Bible isn’t actually a censored book in Idaho, its lack of use and availability makes it a de facto censored book.
During my presentation, I gave many examples of how the Bible could be used in public school subjects such as math, science, English, world history and government, music, and foreign language. Here are just a few ways the Bible provides information critical to students’ education:
English and American Literature – If you were studying the form of poetry called a “sonnet,” whose writings would you study? (Hint: Shakespeare.) If you were studying the form of wisdom literature called the “proverb,” whose writings would you study? (Hint: Solomon’s collection of Proverbs.) Shakespeare’s plays and American classics such as The Scarlet Letter cannot be fully appreciated without an understanding of the Bible. And how can you possibly comprehend Milton’s Paradise Lost without reading Genesis 1-2? What sense would the medieval morality play Everyman make unless you read the New Testament?
World History and Government – The Bible provides historical information regarding the rise and fall of the Babylonian, Assyrian, Persian, and Greek empires. The Bible is also the primary (and possibly only) source of information about the form of government called a theocracy.
English Language – The word Bible comes from the Greek word biblos, which means book. The koine Greek of the New Testament has also enriched the English language with words such as baptism and apostle. Students interested in word etymology should be able to study the Bible to determine which words in our language stem from koine Greek. They could be aided by Noah Webster’s dictionary, which was the first dictionary for American English and used the Bible to illustrate word meanings and usage.
American History – Our nation’s first settlers brought the Bible to our shores. Why would we omit study of a document the Pilgrims deem essential to transport across the Atlantic? The Jamestown colony was saved from starvation by applying the instruction stated in II Thessalonians 3:10, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”
Art and Architecture – Imagine the academic challenge of constructing a drawing or a replica of the Ark, the Tabernacle, or the Temple from the descriptions given in the Bible. The subject matter of many Western European paintings and cathedral stained glass windows is taken directly from the Bible.
Ethics – An ethics course might examine the question of whether it is ethical for a person to use power and privilege to gain personal advantage. A case study of this question occurs in 2 Samuel 11, which records King David’s adultery with Bathsheba and the king’s subsequent plotted murder of Bathsheba’s husband. The Bible also explores the outcomes of King David’s decisions – both good and bad. Students will only know “the rest of the story” if they read 2 Samuel 12-22 and Psalm 51.
Science – The Bible contains scientifically verifiable information, including this gem written in the first century and confirmed by scientists after the invention of the electron microscope nineteen centuries later: “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Hebrews 11:3). (Hint: The entire visible world is made of invisible atoms!)
Citizens of Idaho, fellow-citizens in your state have taken the first step to restore the Bible to public school classrooms for use as a reference source in numerous subjects. Please contact your legislators to express your support for freedom of speech in education.
Evalyn Bennett is a registered Republican from east-central Idaho.