An Oklahoma senator recently proposed a bill in the state Senate that would allow educators to teach elective Bible classes in public schools.
State Senator Kyle Loveless said the bill would make it difficult for individuals to sue school districts for providing classes based on religion.
State Bill 48, the name of the proposed legislation, would allow “no liability as a result of providing an elective course in the study of religion or the Bible."
Loveless said he decided to write the bill after constituents asked him to help protect school districts where Bible classes already take place.
In December 2014, officials in an Oklahoma high school district decided to not offer an elective class on historical facts in the Bible for its students after news about it sparked a national debate.
Academics from the Green Scholars Initiative, a group associated with the conservative Christian family that owns Hobby Lobby, proposed an early draft of a Bible class for the Mustang School District. It drew criticism from national First Amendment groups because of its connection to the Green family’s Museum of the Bible.
Loveless said he thinks the Mustang School District’s decision to cancel the elective class disappointed its students.
Opponents of the elective said they believe the bill overstepped the boundaries separating religion from public spaces.
“I think the school district hopefully recognized that there were serious constitutional problems with teaching the events of the Bible as historic fact,” said Gregory Lipper, senior litigation counsel for American United for the Separation of Church and State.
Loveless said he does not see the bill stepping over the line separating church and state. Instead, he said he designed the bill to focus on the historical aspects of the Bible and not emphasize the religious implications of the nearly 2,000-year-old document.
“It is not a forced class and this would not be a 'Sunday School' type course,” Loveless said.