TALLAHASSEE — Florida lawmakers have proposed a bill that would require each school district to offer elective courses with the Bible and Christianity as their sole focus.
State Rep. Mel Ponder, R-Destin, is one of five co-sponsors of House Bill 195, which was introduced by District 14 Rep. Kimberly Daniels. Daniels was also involved in the legislation that instructed Florida public schools to display the words “In God We Trust” last year.
"The Bible played in our nation's history such a significant role in how our nation was formed," Ponder said. "It's part of our historical framework. Some of the principles of the Bible helped frame our Constitution. It was the standard.
"I was just a believer in what the bill is trying to do, so I wanted to jump on as co-sponsor and see where it would go."
Although Ponder likes how the bill frames the class as an option for students, funding is an issue that still requires a resolution.
"That part has not been resolved yet, but clearly it would have to be," Ponder said.
The bill states the study would be objective “maintaining religious neutrality and accommodating the diverse religious views, traditions, and perspectives of all students in the school.”
The classes would be offered to high school students. The bill requires the Christian Bible to be used as curriculum for the course, but students would not be required to use a specific translation.
If the bill becomes law, Okaloosa County stands prepared to comply, Assistant Superintendent Steve Horton said.
“When it comes to elective courses such as those described in this legislation, keep in mind that the decision to take them is always left to the students and their parents,” Horton said. “As HB 195 is written, these courses would not be required for graduation.”
Walton County Superintendent of Schools Russell Hughes said he supports the intent of the bill, but hopes to see clarification on what certification a teacher would need because that could pose difficulty for the district.
“We really need to get back to what is right,” Hughes said.
The Santa Rosa County School District could not be reached for comment.