The Arizona House of Representatives voted to approve the bill that will allow public schools to teach the Bible as an elective last week.
House Bill 2563 passed 42-15 on Tuesday. The bill will now move on to a Senate vote.
The bill was introduced by District 26 Rep. Terri Proud, who believes there should be an elective offered in both public and charter schools that would allow the teaching of the Old and New Testament in history or English Arts standards.
Proud said students who read and know the Bible, generally have higher GPAs.
The high-school elective would be called, “The Bible and Its Influence on Western Culture.”
Additionally, the bill would allow schools to offer the course online and develop a new curriculum or use of existing curriculum that includes teacher’s guides and is currently in use in public schools in Arizona or another state.
In voting against the bill, Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, said it would become a constitutional issue.
“If you are not letting schools decide which religions it wants to cover, and how that particular religion affects western culture, it is going to run into a constitutional challenge,” he said. “And we will lose.”
Proud said a similar bill was originally introduced by a Democrat in Alabama in 2006.
“There are many court cases that support this bill,” she said. “This bill is built on finding common ground. It’s not about being Republican or a Democrat. This is about America as a whole. The key is for all sides to step back and give fresh consideration to the principles that bind us as people.”
Rep. Daniel Patterson, D-Tucson, voted against the bill.
“I would rather be talking about something that matters like creating jobs or helping schools, or veterans, or cops, or firefighters, or people to have better opportunity,” he said. “I also appreciate the passion on this bill, but the state has higher priorities.”
Patterson said schools need more funding and support, and another bill adding another layer of curriculum is not helpful.
Rep. Doris Goodale, R-Kingman, applauded Proud’s efforts to get the bill passed, while noting the bill does not require districts to offer the curriculum, it just gives them permission to.
Rep. Ed Ableser, D-Tempe, voted in favor of the bill, while noting that students who read scripture tend to lean toward becoming a Democrat. For that, Ableser thanked Proud for her efforts.
The Arizona House of Representatives started discussing House Bill 2656 last week. The controversial Pima County bond oversight bill was introduced by Rep. Proud.
While the City of Tucson, Sahaurita, the Town of Oro Valley and Pima County officials have opposed the bill, Marana officials support it.
Town Manager Gilbert Davidson said even if it fails in the legislature, the bill is a success because it has generated more discussion on how bond funds should be handled in the future.
“We need to remember, it’s not the county’s money, it’s the taxpayer’s money,” said Davidson. “County debt has to be paid back by each and every one of us. The intent of the bill is to create true regionalism. We need a structure that is similar to the RTA.
HB2656 is set to address some of Proud’s concerns with Pima County by giving veto power to Marana, Oro Valley and Sahuarita. That power would allow these three entities to prevent Pima County from borrowing for roads and other projects.
The House had the second reading of the bill on Feb. 24.