Joe Henderson: Bible classes in Florida public schools? It shouldn’t come to pass
Proposed bill for Bible study classes in Florida public high schools crosses a line

Finding that many qualified teachers willing to leave their personal bias at the classroom door could be difficult.

It should be clear by now that some lawmakers in the Florida Legislature won’t stop until they can get the Bible into the public high school curriculum. As Florida Politics and other sites have reported, bills are moving through the House and Senate committees to require an elective course in Bible study.

Oh, supporters take great pains to say that the course won’t focus on one faith. It would be, as Sen. Dennis Baxley said, “an objective study of religion.”


The “objective study” would include a study of Hebrew Scriptures and the Old Testament, the New Testament, and all of the above.

An “objective” study could indeed be interesting and challenging for interested students, but why am I skeptical about the objectivity part of the equation?

Start with the fact that there are about 1,500 public high schools in Florida. I think we can agree that faith is a deeply personal matter, so finding that many qualified teachers willing to leave their personal bias at the classroom door could be difficult.

Would the state give cash-strapped schools a way to pay for these extra instructors, or would it be another unfunded mandate?

Oh, and there’s the fact that the Old Testament is kind of raunchy in many places. How much classroom time would be spent on the story of David and Bathsheba, for instance? Or Lot’s daughters? Look it up, campers.

Don’t even get me started on the book of Leviticus, which is overflowing with rules designed to keep religious leaders of the day in the chips and women under their thumbs.

If you’re going to teach objectively, you gotta include those parts.

Yes, I’m fascinated by Bible history. And it should be taught in places like, oh, churches. Or in private religious schools, for which public money in the form of tuition vouchers is available. Or in college. 

Who would design these courses? That kind of matters because would a student get marked down for believing in the Big Bang Theory? Did Adam and Eve populate the whole world? Where did their three sons find wives? How did the wives get there in the first place?

OK, this is getting weird, and that’s before the part about a talking snake.

That’s why I want formal religion studies kept out of public schools. I just don’t trust lawmakers to design an objective course or find enough qualified instructors.

But Florida keeps trying, this time under the guise of objectivity. If people are cynical about this, it’s because Tallahassee has earned our mistrust.

Sure, the course — for now, anyway — would be an elective, but would it always stay that way? There’s that whole trust thing again.

I have a better idea. Elect not to force something into public schools that shouldn’t be there.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • Chris Kenney

    November 5, 2019 at 10:40 pm

    Unbelievable. Clearly a crossing of the line between church and state. No mention of requiring a course on the Koran or the Tripitaka or any other religion’s guide in the bill. The very nature of it makes it anything but objective and is a clear attempt to indoctrinate.

  • Dan Lanske

    November 6, 2019 at 7:20 am


    • Pat Williams

      November 6, 2019 at 9:39 am

      From what I’ve read, it will be an ELECTIVE! Calm down. Some people still believe in God and Jesus!

      • Joe Williams

        November 6, 2019 at 9:57 am

        And they can get their dose of Jesus at church. If parents won’t bring their children to church, why should schools have to carry parental roles?

        • Realistic

          November 7, 2019 at 1:09 pm

          Yes. And they can read other fiction at their leisure.

      • Dan Lanske

        November 6, 2019 at 11:40 am

        My comment was directed at How He Henderson

        • Dan Lanske

          November 6, 2019 at 11:41 am

          My comment was directed at Joe Henderson

  • Pat Williams

    November 6, 2019 at 10:55 am

    I realize that some people get upset about this but, since it is being offered as an elective and is not a required subject, nobody HAS to take it. It was an elective in my school, and we even had a Bible Club. I didn’t participate in either one, but it was offered to those who did wish to participate.

  • Stephen Lusk

    November 6, 2019 at 6:46 pm

    Just wait until the kids come home with excited accounts of what they learned from Genesis chapters 19, 34, 38, and 39, Judges chapters 19-20, 2 Samuel chapter 11, Ezekiel chapter 23, and the like.
    Tony Morrison and Mark Twain are tame by comparison.

  • Jane

    November 13, 2019 at 5:07 am

    I used to be happy with separation of church and state until our schools began brainwashing our children and forcing propaganda on them like Allah is the one true God. Does anyone know about “Deep Equity” another dumbing down propaganda tool used by the global communists running our school systems?
    Reading, writing, arithmetic, science and history are the only things that should be taught in our public schools!

  • Peggy Walker

    November 15, 2019 at 4:10 pm

    Mr. Henderson, I believe reasonable people can have intelligent debate about the merits or drawbacks of elective Bible classes being taught in public schools. But your mockery of the Old Testament does nothing to advance your position among those who have an opposite point of view.

  • Rachel E

    November 17, 2019 at 8:25 pm

    Clearly Bible courses would have been very helpful to certain journalists, to teach them that the Bible is not meant to be taken entirely literally; the creation story, Adam and Eve, and many other stories (not all) are metaphorical. I can’t speak for all religions, but for Christians, it is totally okay to believe in, say, the Big Bang. The Bible is not a science book. Ideally, Bible courses would not necessarily push religion on students, but rather help them to understand their religious peers and many important historical figures and belief systems. And, as other commenters are saying, it’s elective, so this doesn’t even have to be a problem.

Comments are closed.


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