A resolution supporting the academic study of the Bible in public schools passed the South Dakota Senate Monday after a more spirited debate than the same measure received in the House of Representatives.
HCR 1004 calls for schools to offer "non-devotional" elective study of the Bible because of what it calls the book's historical and cultural significance. Its purpose, supporters say, is to remove the "fear" among schools that they can't teach about the Bible without violating the First Amendment.
"This resolution is not a First Amendment establishment clause violation," said Sen. Elizabeth Kraus, R-Rapid City.
"It just reassures the districts so they know they can make a decision themselves without any problem on the First Amendment."
Sen. Bruce Rampelberg, R-Rapid City, also supported the resolution, saying it was only the first tiny step toward "taking back the heritage of our country."
"Let's draw a line in the sand and begin this day to stand in the gap for our beliefs," Rampelberg said.
As a resolution, HCR 1004 would not have the force of law. It simply expresses the opinion of the Legislature.
The measure passed the House on Jan. 24 by a 58-8 vote, following a brief debate with no opposition.
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That wasn't the case Monday in the Senate. Several lawmakers criticized HCR 1004 on the floor.
"It sends the message that other religious texts are not as important as the Bible, which I think is probably a dangerous path for us to start down," said Sen. Angie Buhl, D-Sioux Falls.
Sen. Tom Hansen, R-Huron, also opposed the resolution. He said there are plenty of subjects beyond the Bible where schools could do a better job, and that the state should let "the church regulate church things."
But most senators sided with Kraus and the other proponents. HCR 1004 passed the Senate 25-10.
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