CLEVELAND—In addition to jobs, healthcare, and other issues that they agreed upon unanimously, members of the Republican Platform Committee debated teaching Bible in school, in a measure that was ultimately adopted as a plank into the GOP platform.
As a whole, Platform Committee delegates seem deeply concerned about the growing militant secularizing of American culture, and with it the purging of Judeo-Christian influences and references from American life, especially public schools and the public square.
In part to combat this trend, delegates considered language to protect and restore religious liberty and faith-based expression. One of those measures concerned giving public high schools the option of offering an elective class that would teach the Bible as literature.
Louisiana delegate Tony Perkins, who is also president of the Family Research Council, proposed the following amendment in a subcommittee: “A good understanding of the Bible being important to the development of a good citizenry, we encourage state legislatures to offer the Bible as a literature curriculum as an elective in America’s high schools.”
In fact, there are four types of literature in the Bible: historical narrative, poetry, didactic (i.e., teaching), and prophesy. This class would explore the Bible from this literary standpoint.
Several delegates supported teaching the Bible, but questioned this precise language. For example, Mary Kay Culp of Kansas wondered if the Bible should be taught as history, rather than literature.
Perkins responded that the term “literature” was deliberately chosen because some schools teaching the Bible as literature had already been challenged in court, where the courts sided with the school. So to avoid reinventing the wheel and potentially forcing new litigation, teaching the Bible as literature would enjoy some protection under current court precedent in some parts of the country.
Others opposed this language, for various reasons.
Rising GOP star Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach—a prominent constitutional lawyer who was a law professor before being elected to public office—pushed back against those trying to block this measure, saying:
I would remind the body that the first Congress of the United States in 1789 called for the distribution of Bibles to all schoolchildren in the United States at that time. And this is an important principle our Founding Fathers chose to embrace in the First Congress of the United States.
One Alabama delegate, State Rep. Jim Carnes, took yet another step, vigorously defending Perkins’ measure. In response to an attempt to change the wording of the measure, Carnes declared:
I think the wording should stay as it is and this amendment should not be adopted. I think Americans have been watching as we slowly eroded the foundation of this country based on the biblical principles that we all cherish. And to come in and have a chance to continue this is a great honor and to take this out would be a great dishonor.
Perkins’ language was ultimately adopted by the full committee, and will become part of the Republican Platform when adopted by the party convention next week.
Ken Klukowski is senior legal editor for Breitbart News, and Michelle Moons is a Breitbart News reporter.