BOISE - It's a controversial topic that's putting Idaho in the spotlight of a long-running debate. There's a bill being tweaked in the state Senate that would clarify how the Bible can be used in our schools.
Public schools are allowed to teach about religion, but it's against the law for them to promote any one faith in particular. Senate Bill 1342 would allow the Bible - and other religious texts - to be used as a reference to help further educate children in Idaho.
"Nobody should be concerned that what we've asked for is to allow religious training in school," the attorney who helped Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll (R- Cottonwood) draft the bill, Christ Troupis, said.
Nuxoll's legislation wouldn't start letting schools push religion in the classroom.
"If you get into the religious tenant or religious doctrine, you will violate the Idaho Constitution and the United States Constitution," Troupis said.
It's meant to clarify the role that religious texts can play in public schools. For decades, Idaho's Constitution has not allowed the use of sectarian and denominational texts, leading people to believe that the Bible can't be used in public schools.
"The purpose of this bill was to clarify that the Bible can be used," Troupis added.
After concerns were raised in the Senate State Affairs Committee, SB 1342 was amended to say, "religious texts, including the Bible," can be used if presented objectively to further the study of a variety of school subjects.
"I don't think there's really anything wrong with that," one parent, Gary Vang, told KTVB. "I think school should be a place open to all ideas."
Another important amendment the committee wanted to see was the hard sciences - astronomy, biology and geology - taken out of the equation.
"We want to clarify. We want teachers to feel they have a safe harbor where they can do something and not have to worry about the school board or a parent saying, 'you've over stepped your bounds,' " Troupis said.
"I think it should give the teachers some power and not be bound by regulation," Becky Bartrop, mother of a fourth-grader at Koelsch Elementary in Boise, said.
There's a strong opposition too, people who believe the teaching of religion doesn't belong in public schools. Opponents say the bill is unconstitutional because it doesn't separate church and state.
The fate of Senate Bill 1342 is not certain right now; it is going through an amendment order, and will then head back to the committee. Troupis expects the committee to pass it with the recent changes, pushing it to the Senate floor.
We will continue to follow the status of this bill in the Statehouse.