Louisiana bill violates religious freedom

Nicholas Soirez

Since the country’s founding in 1776, the government has prioritized religious freedom. Louisiana’s newest bill jeopardizes  students’ protected right to religious freedom.

If passed, Louisiana House Bill 68 allows public high schools to offer Bible literature courses as an elective. The new class would examine the Bible as if it were a classic novel. The bill’s sponsor, Valarie Hodges, argues that the Bible is too influential not to be taught in schools. 

Passing HB 68 would infringe on every student’s right to religious freedom in the classroom. 

The newly-proposed Louisiana legislation may intend to help high school students understand the literature of the Bible, but it could result in the suppression of minority religions. 

While Hodges states that HB 68 does not favor specific beliefs, teaching the Bible to high schoolers implies that the Bible is more important than other religious texts. The class suggests Christianity is more important than other religions. 

There are many other religious texts that could be taught instead of the Bible, such as the Quran. It has stories and anecdotes like the Bible does. However, the reaction to teaching the Quran would likely be different than that of the Bible. 

By teaching the Bible in a class, the bill excludes other religions and places a greater emphasis on Christianity.

The new law may violate the First Amendment of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religious expression and forbids any federally-funded institutions from promoting one religion over another. Since public schools receive funding from the government, Louisiana may break constitutional law.  

Although the bill states that the teachers of these courses must remain religiously neutral, teachers could argue that the First Amendment gives them the right to express their Christian ideas to students. HB 68 would only blur the lines between religious expression and suppression.   Students already have the option to learn more about the Bible through churches and clubs. An elective class is not necessary. If schools are going to teach literature, a single religious text should not be the primary focus of the class. A wide range of texts should be covered to convey different writing styles.

Legislators should vote no to HB 68 and protect the religious freedom of high schoolers.