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On Monday, President Donald Trump tweeted approval for legislation proposing Bible literacy classes in schools in several states.
“Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!” Trump tweeted Monday.
Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 28, 2019
Sandwiched between tweets about steel tariffs and former Starbucks CEO Howard Schulz’s announcement that he’s considering a presidential run, the tweet likely refers to a Fox & Friends segment that representatives in six states have put forward legislation to introduce Bible literacy classes in public schools.
North Dakota state representative Aaron McWilliams (R) appeared on Fox & Friends to tout the legislation he co-sponsored in the state’s legislature.
“This bill is important because it allows us the opportunity to explore areas in history that give a foundation to what we have today,” McWilliams said, going on to cite an anecdote about the first Constitutional Congress arguing whether or not to pray at the beginning of their meeting.
Florida, West Virginia, Virginia, Missouri, and Indiana state legislatures proposed similar bills this month. The North Dakota bill was proposed in early January and immediately drew criticism from civil rights groups. The bill was soundly defeated on Friday, according to the Associated Press.
Similar bills failed in Iowa, West Virginia, and Alabama failed last year, according to the ACLU. Kentucky’s state legislature passed standards related to religious education classes last year, despite pushback from that state’s Civil Liberties Union.
Critics warn that the bills threaten to violate the principle of separation of church and state.
Heather Smith, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota, said that state’s bill was “blatantly unconstitutional.”
“When school officials promote religion generally, or signal their preference for one faith, it sends an exclusionary and destructive message that students who follow other religions, or no religion at all, don’t belong,” she said in a statement.
Trump has attempted to court evangelical Christians with rollbacks on reproductive rights and special protections for religious institutions, POLITICO reports.
Ellen Ioanes is the FOIA reporter at the Daily Dot, where she covers U.S. politics. She is a graduate of Columbia Journalism School, and her work has appeared in the Guardian, the Center for Public Integrity, HuffPost India, and more.