JOHNSTON — An effort to enact legislation to allow the Bible to be taught in Iowa high schools to provide students with “knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives” will have to proceed without the blessing of two key legislative leaders.
The heads of the House and Senate Education committees were lukewarm, at best, about House File 2031, which would allow the Bible to be taught as a social studies elective.
Asked whether the House Education Committee would forward the bill to the full House, Chairman Walt Rogers, R-Cedar Falls, was non-committal.
“I’m letting my caucus and the Education Committee kind of work through that,” Rogers said during Friday’s taping of “Iowa Press” that can be seen at 7 p.m. Friday on Iowa Public Television.
“One of the things I do with my committee is try to let them run with the passions that they believe are right,” he said.
Rep. Skyler Wheeler, R-Orange City, “was excited about it,” Rogers said. “I said see how it goes, run your subcommittee. Let’s see what happens, and we’ll see what the full committee decides on the bill.”
The bill was moved out of subcommittee on a 2-1 party line vote, supported by Wheeler and Rep. Sandy Salmon, R-Janesville, and opposed by Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, who said more than 100 Iowa schools teach similar courses.
Rogers acknowledged that study of the Bible is included in world religion and comparative religion courses in many schools.
Senate Education Chairwoman Amy Sinclair, R-Allerton, agreed it appears the goal of the bill already has been accomplished in many schools.
“My oldest son, (who) goes through concurrent enrollment with Indian Hills Community College, took the Bible as literature in high school,” Sinclair said.
For the bill to be considered by the Legislature this year, it must be approved by the Education Committee by Feb. 16. The bill is not on the committee’s Feb. 12 agenda.
Rogers was more supportive of another bill that would require high school students pass a civics exam before graduating.
“I just think it’s common sense that kids should know a little bit of basic civics when they come out of high school,” he said, adding it’s “the right thing to do.”
The test would be the same one administered by the Citizenship and Immigration Services to those looking to become U.S. citizens.
It’s not that he thinks Iowa schools are not doing a good job of teaching civics, Rogers said. Taking the test, however, might help students “focus a little bit on what our history is, what our government is and maybe get a little more excited about becoming a senator or a representative someday.”
A subcommittee has recommended passage of that bill, House Study Bill 573. It is on the committee’s Monday agenda.
“Iowa Press” also can be seen at 8:30 a.m. Saturday on IPTV World, at noon Sunday on IPTV and online at IPTV.org.