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Bible In Public School Classrooms Gets OK From Idaho Lawmakers

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Tom Banse
/
Northwest News Network
File photo of the Idaho House of Representatives

Idaho lawmakers said amen for public school teachers to use the Bible in classrooms. The Idaho House voted 54-15 Monday to allow religious texts, including the Bible, to be used for reference purposes.

State Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, said the legislature needed to provide teachers with reassurance that such uses are OK.

"Having the ability for a teacher to be able to use or reference a Bible in a classroom would only help us as a society become great, become better, become more productive, become kinder, become gentler,” Crane said.

Rep. Fred Wood, R-Burley, disagreed with his Republican colleagues in the majority. Wood said the Bible-in-schools authorization was unnecessary and would invite a costly legal challenge.

"It is patently unconstitutional with respect to Idaho's constitution,” Wood said. “This is going to cost the taxpayers of the state of Idaho -- I don't know -- $250,000 to $400,000.”

The Idaho Attorney General's office also raised concerns about the constitutionality of the measure in an advisory opinion. The relevant section of the state constitution reads, “No books, papers, tracts or documents of a political, sectarian or denominational character shall be used or introduced in any schools…”

The Bible-in-schools bill previously passed the Idaho Senate by a wide margin and now heads to the governor’s desk. Republican Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter has not taken a public position on the matter.

The new legislation reaffirms that religious instruction is not permitted in public schools.

Tom Banse covers national news, business, science, public policy, Olympic sports and human interest stories from across the Northwest. He reports from well known and out–of–the–way places in the region where important, amusing, touching, or outrageous events are unfolding. Tom's stories can be found online and heard on-air during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" on NPR stations in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.