As of Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Last Tuesday, April 5, Gov. Butch Otter vetoed a Bible-in-schools bill, saying it violates the Idaho Constitution and could result in “costly litigation for Idaho public schools.”
According to a Spokesman-Review story, “I have deep respect and appreciation for the Bible as religious doctrine as well as a piece of historic literature,” Otter wrote in his veto message. “However, allowing S1342 to become law is in direct contravention to the Idaho Constitution.”
Pushed by Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, Senate Bill 1342 would have allowed teachers to use the Bible and other religious texts in public school classrooms as a reference.
On the veto, Sen. Nuxoll issued this statement:
“Those of us who realize the value of Christian history in American society are disappointed Governor Otter vetoed SB 1342. This bill validated appropriate use of the Bible as a reference in public schools. Although 81 percent of Idaho’s legislators supported the bill, and a resolution affirming its content passed the GOP convention with a near unanimous vote, Governor Otter chose to say ‘no’ anyway.”
“A prosperous civilization needs a foundation. People with last names like Washington, Adams and Madison blatantly identified the Bible as that reference point. They feared not having it would result in corruption and misuse of taxpayer funds. Are they right?”
“S1342 Bible Bill is constitutionally sound. According to constitutional attorneys Matt Sharp with Alliance Defending Freedom, Michael Farris, founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association, and Chris Troupis, Idaho attorney, they have all stated in their opinions that the bill is sound in both Idaho and federal court. The governor relied on our attorney general and his attorney to say that S1342 is unconstitutional.”
“The governor says that our schools are already using religious texts for reference, which they are doing. But how can they be protected if it is unconstitutional to use religious texts, including the Bible, for reference purposes? Either we need a statute like S1342 to protect us, or we need a constitutional amendment to provide the protection and certainty that our public schools need.”
“Idaho is the only state in the union to declare that teaching the Bible for secular purposes is unconstitutional.”
•The ACLU of Idaho praised Governor Otter’s decision to veto. The legislation posed significant constitutional concerns, and the federal and state constitutions prohibit both the use of religious texts in science classes and favoring one religious source such as the Bible over other religious texts.
“The Governor did the right thing and we thank him for protecting Idaho’s Constitution,” said Kathy Griesmyer, ACLU of Idaho’s Public Policy Strategist. “Idaho students and parents need to have a guarantee that their First Amendment rights are preserved in the classroom.”
The ACLU of Idaho sent a letter to the Governor asking him to veto the bill, stating “The risk of potential litigation presented by SB 1342 will remain an ongoing liability for teachers, schools, and school districts across the state that should be utilizing their limited resources for educational purposes—not defending constitutionally questionable legislation.”