The Republican controlled legislature in South Carolina recently infuriated liberal groups by insisting that state universities teach students about the U.S. Constitution and other founding documents.
The SC House of Representatives had recently cut funding for two state universities that had required students to read homosexual-themed books. This month, a revised budget restored the funding.
But the renewed funding had strings attached. The new budget stipulated that the money was to be used “for instruction in the provisions and principles of the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Federalist Papers, including the study of and devotion to American institutions and ideals.”
The debate began in March when Rep. Gary Smith (R-Simpsonville) introduced the legislation to deduct $52,000 from the budget of the College of Charleston and $17,142 University of South Carolina over the two school’s reading requirements.
“The College of Charleston assigned a book called Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, which is about a lesbian woman and her relationship with her father who she one day learns is gay too,” the University Herald website reported in March. “South Carolina Upstate assigned a freshmen course to read “Out Loud: the Best of Rainbow Radio, which is a collection of stories from the state’s first radio show targeted for a homosexual audience.”
Critics of the legislation said that Republicans were attacking academic freedom.
As a compromise, State Republicans added a provision for schools that have a mandatory reading schedule to provide an alternative in case required books conflict with a student’s religious tenets.
Governor Nikki Haley decided not to challenge the budget plans but said she didn’t necessarily fully agree with it, either. In a statement, Haley said that she “didn’t want to interject ourselves into” the deliberations.
“I don’t believe legislators should micromanage our boards. They elect board members, so if they want to beat up on them, go for it… but to go in there and micromanage books being read, I think that’s out of our purview,” Haley said.
Several Democrats attempted to amend the budget to reverse the cuts but their attempts failed.
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