First up from the God Machine this week is a controversial push in Oklahoma to not only ban Advanced Placement classes in American history, but also to impose a more religiously focused curriculum on schools.
This week, as was widely reported, an Oklahoma state House committee approved a bill along partisan lines to outlaw AP history classes. What received less attention was what state Republican lawmakers intend to replace those classes with.
Republican Oklahoma Rep. Dan Fisher has proposed a bill that would yank state funding from the AP history course and develop a new advanced U.S. history curriculum based, in part, on three Reagan speeches.Fisher – a pastor who was elected in 2013 – lists texts he believes should be the focus of students’ educations. The “foundational and historical” texts the 10-page bill details include some obvious choices – the Constitution and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” for example – but it also emphasizes the Ten Commandments, two sermons, three speeches by Reagan, and President George W. Bush’s address to the nation after the 9/11 attacks.
Which sermons would make the cut? The proposed legislation is actually quite specific: students wouldn’t be able to take AP history, but they would be presented with “A Model of Christian Charity” by John Winthrop and “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards.
The bill doesn’t specify which version of the Ten Commandments would be included – the Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish faiths number and word the Commandments differently – but given the context, I have a hunch the Protestant version would likely get the nod.
Though the Republican-run state committee already voted to advance the proposal, the pastor who wrote conceded later in the week that his bill “was very poorly worded and was incredibly ambiguous, and we didn’t realize that.”
Fisher intends to re-write the bill. The role of religious materials in the revamped plan remains unclear.
Also from the God Machine this week:
* Norway: “A group of Muslims plan on forming a ‘peace ring’ around a synagogue in Oslo, Norway, following the recent attack on a synagogue in Copenhagen. Hajrad Arshad, the 17-year-old organizing the event, told Norway broadcaster NRK that the group wants to ‘extinguish the prejudices people have against Jews and against Muslims.’”
* California: “[State lawmakers] on Tuesday urged the archbishop of San Francisco to remove from a teachers’ handbook morality clauses they say are discriminatory and divisive. The lawmakers said in a letter to Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone that the clauses ‘foment a discriminatory environment’ and send ‘an alarming message of intolerance to youth.’”
* North Dakota: “Republican leaders in the North Dakota House of Representatives said they canceled the opening prayer by a Muslim on Ash Wednesday because some members thought it was more appropriate to have a Christian deliver the invocation. Dr. Nadim Koleilat, board president of the Bismarck Muslim Community Center, ended up giving the invocation in the Senate instead of the House.”
* Tennessee: “That reference to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence isn’t enough for Rep. James VanHuss, R-Jonesborough. He wants to change the Tennessee constitution so that it includes the phrase: ‘We recognize that our liberties do not come from governments, but from Almighty God, our Creator and Savior.’ That’s in addition to Rep. Jerry Sexton’s bill that would make the Bible the official book of Tennessee.”