Thursday, February 18, 2010

Why I think SB142 is a bad idea

If it weren't evident from my previous entries and email posts, I am an ardent fan of the U.S. Constitution especially the First Amendment. I'll defend the rights of anyone to their opinion and their free expression. However, I believe it is essential to defend the separation of Church and State. Why else did the Founding Fathers see fit to include the amendment anyway? (They were deists who didn't want to repeat the mistakes of the theistic monarchies so common in Europe at the time.)

The language that bothers me first appears in the bill summary:

... to establish an elective social studies course on the Hebrew Scriptures, Old Testament of the Bible, the New Testament, or a combination of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament of the Bible ...
The specifics as stated make me question the motive for introducing the bill. Except for identifying the course as "social studies", there appears to be nothing that differentiates the proposed class from a typical Sunday School class. I judge, that even if it is an elective, such a class will do little to promote harmony and tolerance among members of a diverse student community.

I am certainly in favor of moral and ethical education and a child's attendance at the church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or other of their [parent's] choice for place of worship (we have protections guaranteeing those rights under the First Amendment, right?).

Several email respondents were on the same tract as I. This social studies (or literature, or history) class should be a survey of the sacred literature of the world's religious traditions. Such a class would have academic integrity and (I believe) help foster an understanding of the variety of traditional and faith-based beliefs that can be encountered daily. People are different and knowledge will help develop the trust and tolerance for building communities with shared interests.

The introduction of this type of legislation has generally meant that its advocates want to be able to teach the Bible in public schools. My points are that

  1. Bible lessons in public schools are inconsistent with the First Amendment
  2. Such a class will compete for a student's time with science and math courses. For our society to succeed, we need well rounded citizens with a good liberal arts and science background, but religious edification is best dealt with in the family and church.
  3. Such a class in public schools will require teacher, facilities, and materials resources already stretched in this time of bare bones budgets and belt tightening. Sunday schools already have these resources in place and in fact generally offer summer programs.

It is the second point, where in an earlier email I mentioned science and provided an illustration of evolution as science, that the creationism versus evolution thread came into the conversation. Regardless of the number of persons who believe in the Biblical account of creation, those accounts are faith-based. There is no empirical evidence to support the various proposals of creationism (not just Biblical, but mythological origin stories as well). There is a Theory of Evolution, but no Theory of Creation. If someone thinks evolution is "just a theory" then creationism isn't even that. For creationism to be given equal time in a science, it must stand on an equally sound scientific basis.

I will end by paraphrasing a quote I heard (but don't know the original source):

There is no scientific fact that can't be denied on the basis of faith.

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