Media Contact

Janna Farley, jfarley@aclu.org

January 9, 2019

The ACLU of North Dakota opposes Senate Bill 2136, a bill that would require North Dakota’s public schools to teach a unit on the Bible, covering the Old Testament, the New Testament or a mix of the two. The unit could count toward students’ social studies credit requirements.

Heather Smith, executive director of the ACLU of North Dakota, released the following statement:

“Senate Bill 2136 is blatantly unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has recognized that the ‘government must exercise particular care in separating church and state’ in public schools. Every student, regardless of their faith, should feel safe and welcome in our public schools. 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.

“To withstand constitutional requirements, Bible curriculum in public schools must be neutral and non-devotional, and classes cannot be used to promote one particular religion. Senate Bill 2136, which explicitly provides for the teaching of the Old Testament and the New Testament of the Bible, does not do this. Attempting to implement a Bible curriculum like this is very likely to expose a school district to litigation.”

Decisions made during the biannual sessions of the North Dakota Legislature have a deep and lasting impact on our state’s people and communities. As new laws are created and others repealed or written, it’s important to ensure that these changes preserve and strengthen our constitutional rights.

The ACLU of North Dakota monitors a wide range of issues at the legislature. Our education and lobbying efforts are aimed at informing both lawmakers and the public about the civil rights and civil liberties implications of the bills proposed by our elected officials. For up-to-date information on the bills the ACLU of North Dakota is tracking, go to www.aclund.org.

About the ACLU of North Dakota

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota is a non-partisan organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of civil liberties and civil rights. The ACLU believes freedoms of press, speech, assembly, and religion, and the rights to due process, equal protection, and privacy are fundamental to a free people. In addition, the ACLU seeks to advance constitutional protections for groups traditionally denied their rights, including people of color, women, and the LGBT communities. The ACLU of North Dakota carries out its work through selective litigation, lobbying at the state and local level, and through public education and awareness of what the Bill of Rights means for people of North Dakota.

 

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