Sen. Kruse has introduced SB 373 concerning flags and god in public schools. He wants to mandate that a framed picture of a U.S. flag, a state flag, and the words “in God we Trust” be placed in every public school library and classroom. The entire display must be at least 14 x 17 inches with the motto being at least 4×15 and each flag being 5×5.
The bill also amends the current legislation permitting schools to offer a survey of religion class by specifying that the survey may include the study of the Bible as one of the permissible documents that may be studied in the survey. It does not specify any of the holy texts of other religions as eligible for study (although, under current law, the Bible and all of those other documents are already eligible for study.) The bill also states that a school corporation may mandate the teaching of creation science as one of the “various theories concerning the origin of life.”
Current law allows a parent to pull a kid from school to go receive religious instruction for two hours a week. This bill would allow the school to adopt a policy to award academic credit for that religious instruction. Finally, the legislation adds some happy talk about the liberty of the parent to direct the education of a child being a fundamental right and some strict scrutiny language to the effect that a school policy or state law can’t infringe upon that right unless it demonstrates the need for the policy or statute is “of the highest order and not otherwise served.”
This stuff about flags, “in God We Trust,” singling out the Bible for special mention, and Creation Science is about marking territory and isn’t calculated to improve kids’ educations. The policy giving credit for religious instruction actually doesn’t strike me as that bad as it’s written (how it worked in practice could be problematic.) The strict scrutiny language on a parent’s right to direct the kid’s education is ripe for unintended consequences and, beyond that, ignores the fact that the public also has an interest in an educated citizenry — exactly where and how we should draw the line where the parent’s interest and the public interest intersect is a tough question, worth more thought than this legislation reflects.