In another sign that the supposed move in the country away from conservatism is more media hype than political reality, a bill in Tallahassee is back for another shot at embedding Bible courses in Florida public schools. While the reactions to this proposal can probably be scripted (if not already heard) -- after all, the measure went nowhere last session -- there are a number of details to this bill that might jar knee-jerk opponents.
What will surely come as a surprise to those who immediately leap to the "Separation of Church and State" argument is that Florida schools already are permitted to teach Bible courses. School districts currently have the option of offering Bible course study. The difference is, this new bill will mandate that districts offer these courses as electives.
In other words, students wouldn't have to take the courses, the courses would simply have to be available. The details are in the language. This means the state is not compelling anyone to practice or study a religion.
Christianity is not the primary thrust of this measure. As the bill language states, it "requires each school district to offer specified courses relating to religion, Hebrew Scriptures, & Bible to certain students as elective courses." Broad coverage of a variety of religions -- if so desired.
One other facet to this is that the potential argument that this is an attempt by over-zealous conservatives attempting to force their religion onto others (please refer to the prior paragraph) is that the GOP is not behind this. The bill has been brought forward by Rep. Kimberly Daniels, a Democrat from Jacksonville.
The curiosity of a Democrat, albeit a religious one, forwarding such a bill is possibly considered curious, but in light of the overall political climate in the country, it may not be all that surprising. November’s highly touted Blue Wave has not delivered a pronounced shift in the political landscape.
One needs only to take a look at what has transpired on the state level after November. A number of states have since passed tougher abortion laws, a clear sign of a right-leaning shift. These bills are coming forward and passing just before a general election, a time when there is some political hesitancy on potentially controversial measures. Furthermore, in Louisiana, the "heartbeat abortion bill" was co-written by a female and signed into law by a Democratic governor.
It becomes telling that when Democrats are forwarding bills that normally would be considered right-of-center, it may indicate they are reading the mood of their constituents, and passing legislation accordingly.
Brad Slager, a Fort Lauderdale freelance writer, wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News. He writes on politics and the industry and his stories appear in such publications as RedState and The Federalist.