Last updated on 2013.01.10
I was enjoying breakfast. Then I read the Reverend Representative Steve Hickey's latest sly nod to theocracy. Rep. Hickey and all sorts of Republicans want all South Dakota school districts to teach the Bible.
House Concurrent Resolution 1004 declares that if you don't know your Bible, you're an ignoramus ill-equipped to engage in democracy, literature, or public discourse (subtext: "That gal doesn't read the Bible! She can't govern! Discount her blog comments!"). HCR 1004 calls on schools to either implement stand-alone Bible classes or integrate Bible studies into their literature and social studies classes. It calls for "clear and consistent communication of the importance of basic literacy of the Bible," all in careful accordance, of course, with the First Amendment.
Let's drop the winkingly pious baloney. HCR 1004 isn't about literacy. It's about proselytizing. It's about reinforcing Christian faith. It's about surrounding kids with messages that shout "Bible Bible Bible! Jesus Jesus Jesus!" The motivation for this resolution is no different from what drives Coca-Cola and the National Guard to hand out free calendars to public schools: they're putting their brand in front of a captive audience of impressionable young minds to win business and recruits.
But maybe I should chill out. Let's take Pastor Hickey and HCR 1004 at their words. Let's assume the resolution really comes to us in the spirit of secular education. Then how better to uphold this resolution than by adding one important clause:
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that given the importance of the First Amendment and avoiding excessive entanglement of the state in religion, and given the purely secular aims of this resolution, the Legislature of South Dakota supports the appointment of purely secular teachers to the supervision and execution of all Bible-related education called for in this resolution.
I am a secular humanist and atheist. I have no interest in encouraging young people to join any particular religion. I have no interest in discouraging them from joining any particular religion. I am certified to teach literature and social studies. I have taught students about Biblical references in Shakespeare, The Grapes of Wrath, and other literature from a purely secular perspective. I've even read Bible stories to my daughter with no conversionary intent whatsoever.
Yes, Pastor Steve, if you're gonna do it, do it right: do it with me! I'm your man! I am the perfect person to head up your initiative to bring the Bible to public schools. Amend that resolution! Put me and my fellow secular humanists in charge! Assure the good people of South Dakota that HCR 1004 has no theistic intent whatsoever.