Michael Brown: President Trump, Bible Literacy Classes in Public Schools, and the Separation of Church and State

In response to President Trump’s tweet praising schools which were introducing Bible literacy classes, comedian and actor John Fugelsang responded with utter scorn: “The only reason you’re president is that 62 million self-described Christians were completely illiterate about Jesus’ teachings. Every time Trump mentions the Bible an angel coughs up blood.”

Let’s put aside Fugelsang’s mockery of Christians who voted for Trump. And let’s ignore his attack on the President.

Instead, let’s ask this simple question: Was Trump guilty of praising a blatant violation of the separation of Church and State? He wrote: “Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!”

Responding to the President’s tweet, Ryan Hill simply quoted the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

But what does a voluntary Bible class in a public school have to do with the First Amendment?

Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

There is not the slightest connection, either imagined or real.

In fact, it was not until 1963 in Abington School District v. Schempp that the Supreme Court ruled that mandatory Bible reading in public schools was a violation of the First Amendment n 1963. Yet, as radical as that decision was in light of American history, in no way would the logic of these justices touch on a voluntary class on Bible literacy.

But don’t take my word for it. Let’s go back to our nation’s first 125 years and review what happened in our children’s schools. You’re in for a surprise. (I reference the following material in detail, with many additional examples, in Saving a Sick America, from which some of the these paragraphs have been adapted.)

In 1690, the first New England Primer was published. The alphabet was taught using Bible verses for each letter, and the primer contained questions on the moral teachings of the Scriptures, children’s prayers, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Shorter Catechism and questions on the Bible by Mr. Cotton.

The Primer continued to be in wide use in American schools of all types public, private, home or parochial, for the next 200 years.

Over time, this primer was displaced by Noah Webster’s Blue Black Speller, first published in 1783, “with its opening sentence declaring: ‘No man may put off the law of God.’ This speller [was] widely used in American schools and [was] peppered throughout with Bible verses. Later versions stated, ‘Noah Webster who taught millions to read but not one to sin.’”

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Michael Brown