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Eye On Boise

Senate passes Bible-in-schools bill 31-3, says it’s better than current outdated law requiring Bible reading

Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, argues for her Bible-in-schools bill in the Idaho Senate on Monday (Betsy Z. Russell)
Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, argues for her Bible-in-schools bill in the Idaho Senate on Monday (Betsy Z. Russell)

The Senate has voted 31-3 in favor of SB 1342a, the amended version of the bill from Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, to expressly permit use of the Bible in public schools as a reference. The amendment struck references to using the Bible in “astronomy, biology, (and) geology” classes, and added “religious texts, including” rather than referring solely to the Bible.

“This legislation will relieve any fear or confusion for students, teachers or parents who desire to use the Bible for reference purposes as it occurs naturally in different subjects,” Nuxoll told the Senate. “It is also the intent that other religious works … can also be permissively discussed. … No one is required to use any religious texts, doctrine cannot be taught, and there is no requirement for usage.” She added, “The Bible is the document brought to North America by our nation’s first immigrants, used in our public schools, and is the foundation of our Judeo-Christian heritage. Some perceive the Bible to be central to only the Christian faith, but this is not true. It is referenced by Jews, Muslims, Christians and others.”

Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, spoke out against the bill. “I don’t think this is a good idea, by specifically referencing the Bible and not other religious texts,” he said. “I believe it violates the separation of church and state. To the extent that the bill is intended merely to permit the use of religious texts for academic purposes, the bill is unnecessary, as I’m aware of no prohibition on such use.”

Sen. Todd Lakey, R-Nampa, said current Idaho law includes an outdated section requiring daily reading of selections from the Bible in Idaho’s public schools, from a list prepared by the state Board of Education. “I think we would all agree, senators, that … this legislation does a better job than that,” he said. Nuxoll’s bill repeals that outdated section, replacing its language with her proposal.

Sen. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, questioned Nuxoll about her contention that the “first immigrants” to America brought the Bible; she repeated it. “The people who came to this continent after the Bible had been written found this continent occupied,” he noted.

Nevertheless, he voted in favor of the amended bill. Senate Minority Leader Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said, “I do agree that it is an improvement on current statute.” The three “no” votes were from Sens. Burgoyne, Jordan and Ward-Engelking.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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