One of Bible Bills of which I wrote in early April has stalled in the General Assembly. According to this morning's Tennessean, the major sticking point seems to be whether and how the Bible is taught as a primary text. Debra Maggart (R-Hendersonville), sponsor of the bill, told the Tennessean that she is unhappy and tht she wants to "protect the purity of Bible-based curriculum."
Maggart's comment should tip us all off about the agenda of legislators promoting bible courses in public schools. By using terms with devotional connotations like "purity" (which includes ideas of freedom from sin and guilt as well as doctrinal homogeneity), social conservatives like Maggart show us that they intend to impose something more than simply a historical study of the Bible on local public schools. And this imposition contradicts the self-styled conservative principle that state government should not be dictating elective curricula to local school boards.
And this is the rub for social conservatives: when you promote the teaching of devotional material as mere history and literature (or as one misguided comment put it, as "basic math"), you open that material up to the leveling processes of wider society. The edges of faith get rubbed down to match the smooth contours of all of the other colorful stones in the river of free thought. The sacred becomes profane; the absolute becomes relative. So, if you want the Bible taught in public schools, be careful what you wish for, lest it lead to impure thoughts.