W.Va. senator sponsors bible bill because students are “sexually confused”

A West Virginia state senator sponsoring a school bible bill has offered ludicrous reasoning for the proposed legislation.

The bill would require all schools in the state to offer bible classes. During a Senate Education Committee hearing on Feb. 1, state Sen. Mike Azinger proffered that the law is necessary because kids are "sexually confused" and hence need the bible for "moral clarity."

Azinger additionally shared his belief that U.S. Supreme Court rulings removing religion from public schools precipitated a "dramatic cause and effect in social ills."

Religious zealots have long used such specious arguments. Regardless of the remarkable progress that has been made on any number of social and civil rights issues, they recall a "Leave-It-to-Beaver" world (despite the mistreatment of women and minorities). Even were there a correlation between the court's Engel v. Vitale 1962 ruling prohibiting public school-sponsored prayer and some societal problems, a senator on the Education Committee should understand that correlation does not equal causation. Azinger has some homework to do.

Azinger was asked by a fellow senator about the appropriateness of teaching just one religion. He responded: "The reason that we have the bible only is because America was essentially founded on the bible."

The Freedom From Religion Foundation counters that Azinger's mistaken beliefs about the founding of the United States should not be used to justify religious education policy. America was established in part by refugees seeking freedom from government dictation of religion. The framers who adopted our entirely secular and godless Constitution made only exclusionary references to religion in the Constitution, such as the requirement that "no religious test shall ever by required" for public office and the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. There was no prayer during the four-month Constitutional Convention, which shows intent.

In 1791, America famously signed a treaty with Tripoli declaring that the "government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." This treaty — drafted during George Washington's presidency, approved unanimously by the Senate, and signed by John Adams — is a reminder that not only did the Founders intend to create a secular government, but they explicitly held out the United States as a government that separated state from church.

The proposed bible law is fundamentally misguided. Public school officials should not impart religious beliefs to children. Such a law would be ripe for abuse. Many public school teachers will unquestionably view a bible class as a green light to present their personal religious beliefs as fact to vulnerable students. This will likely lead to a losing lawsuit for a school district, which could cost schools hundreds of thousands of dollars.

FFRF has successfully stopped other illegal bible classes, including a recent court case stopping long-standing bible indoctrination classes in one West Virginia county.

"We hasten to add that the bible is an X-rated book not appropriate to expose small children to, which preaches women's subservience, calls for the execution of homosexuals, and inculcates nonscientific views," adds FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor, author of a book about bible sexism, "Woe to the Women: The Bible Tells Me So." 

She notes that American patriot Thomas Paine wrote a biblical critique, "The Age of Reason," observing:

"Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon, than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness, that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my part, I sincerely detest it, as I detest everything that is cruel."

Azinger's misguided reading of history and social trends reveals the wrongheadedness of the support for this bill. It should be scuttled immediately.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is the largest freethought association in North America, with more than 30,000 members all over the United States, including in West Virginia.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

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