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Tennessee Taking Steps to Ensure an Uninformed Electorate

Think Progress blogger Kira Lerner reported yesterday on Tennessee legislator Sheila Butt’s proposal to “…prohibit schools from teaching “religious doctrine” until high school. This legislation was introduced in response to concerns expressed by parents when a unit in middle school required students to learn about “…the Five Pillars of Islam and other historical lessons about how the religion has influenced regions of the world”.  Ms. Butts believes youngsters are incapable of discriminating between the historic impact of religion and religious indoctrination until they are in high school and therefore wants to ban all religious doctrine until the children are old enough to make that distinction. How she will reconcile that with the current Tennessee law that says “…the Bible can be taught in schools, as long as schools aren’t using it to teach “religious doctrine or sectarian interpretation is unclear. Moreover, given the strident anti-Islamic attitude of some parents and the predominant Christian beliefs in that state it is unlikely that anyone will ask Ms. Butt to do so.

The result of this kind of determined withholding of information about other religious groups is to harden whatever attitudes students about religion students bring with them and to deny the underlying reasons for much of history. How does one teach about the Crusades, the settling of our nation, and virtually all of the wars in history without acknowledging the role of religion? And if a future voter does not understand the role of religion in world history and OUR history, does not realize why our constitution separates church and state, how will they make an informed decision when they vote?

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