Another legislative cycle in Indiana, another brazen attempt at forcing Christianity into the public education system. No surprise there.
Indiana Senate Bill 373 was authored by state Sens. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, and Jeff Raatz, R-Richmond. Its provisions aim to bring a little more Christianity into Indiana’s public and charter schools.
The bill would allow school corporations to “require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science.”
The use of the term “creation science” signifies something important. The bill does not simply aim to make students aware that different religions tell various stories about the creation of life. It aims to teach about creationism as if it is science.
Science is a way of understanding the world based on empirical evidence and the scientific method. It has absolutely nothing to do with religious stories of creation, which were invented by humans before science was advanced enough to tackle those questions. “Creation science” is an oxymoron.
What better to go with an entree of creationism than a side dish of mindless patriotism? The bill would also require every single classroom and school library of all Indiana public and charter schools to display three separate images with specified minimum sizes: the U.S. flag, the Indiana flag and the U.S. motto “In God We Trust.”
None of those displays contribute to education in any meaningful way. Requiring every classroom to display them, and consequently requiring every school corporation and charter school to actually purchase enough for all classrooms, is just one of the many small, petty aspects of the Republican Party’s cultural crusade.
The bill is authored in such a way as to guard against Constitutional challenges while still making clear that its motives are overtly Christian.
For example, it says high school curricula may include an elective course on various religions and religious texts, “including the study of the Bible.” It then says religious texts should be studied in a neutral way, not promoting any particular religion.
But if the bill’s motives were actually neutral, why would it specifically mention only the Bible, and no texts of Islam, Judaism or any other religion?
Indeed, the bill’s co-author Kruse said he wants more Indiana laws that are favorable to Christian values. Raatz, the other co-author, served as principal of a now-closed Christian private school in Richmond, Indiana.
Legislators can get away with requiring the display of “In God We Trust” because it’s our country’s national motto. But this is an overtly religious motto. Even if the god mentioned is not necessarily only the Christian God, it still contradicts the views of atheists and polytheists. Displaying this motto in public schools violates the separation of church and state.
And setting all that aside, how does the display of any motto in every classroom and school library advance a child’s education?
State legislators should leave it up to teachers and elected school board officials to develop curricula and manage the minutiae of education, such as what images to display in a classroom. Public education is no place for their Christian dogma.