A political activist and atheist in Florida is using a contentious law that allows residents to object to teaching materials in public schools to request that the Bible be banned from classrooms and school libraries throughout the state.
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed HB 7 (sometimes called the Stop WOKE Act) into law earlier this year. DeSantis and other right-wing lawmakers have pushed for the law and others like it as a means to ban LGBTQ content in schools as well as to restrict educators from teaching about racism throughout U.S. history in classrooms.
More than 200 books have been removed from public schools in Florida so far. But after DeSantis’s administration rejected the use of more than 50 mathematics textbooks in classrooms, claiming that they contained material relating to critical race theory, Florida activist Chaz Stevens said that he had seen enough.
This week, Stevens sent petitions to several public school superintendents across the state, demanding that they “immediately remove the Bible from the classroom, library, and any instructional material.” Citing the Stop WOKE Act, Stevens pointed out that the subject matter contained within the Bible certainly fits the standards that Republicans have deemed objectionable for children.
Judicial rulings relating to the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution forbid the teaching of religious concepts for the purpose of indoctrination. But lessons can still be developed and taught on religion — including texts like the Bible — if they are approached in a secular way, and school libraries are allowed to contain such texts for students to reference.
Stevens’s petition questioned whether passages in the Bible were age-appropriate for school children, highlighting portions of the religious text that “casually” referenced murder, adultery, sexual immorality, rape, cannibalism, and infanticide, among other items.
Here's an sample letter of our request to ban the Bible across Florida. pic.twitter.com/s8Oe7egaEt
— Chaz Stevens, Stunt Activist. (@TheTweetOfJab) April 24, 2022
“In the end, if Jimmy and Susie are curious about any of the above, they can do what everyone else does — get a room at the Motel Six and grab the Gideons,” Stevens said.
Stevens also noted that certain passages in the Bible are anti-slavery, and that these portions of the text could cause students in Florida classrooms to feel guilty or uncomfortable — a complaint several conservatives in the state have used to justify their opposition to lessons about slavery in the U.S.
“With the constant concerns about teaching Critical Race Theory, should we not take stock of the Bible’s position on slavery? I am concerned our young white students will read such passages and wake up to civilization’s sordid past,” Stevens said in his complaint.
Stevens recognized in his complaint that not everyone would approve of his method of highlighting right-wing hypocrisy.
“Don’t blame me,” he wrote. “I didn’t pass this ridiculous legislation, I’m merely using the law as provided by Tallahassee.”