Bill bans teaching ‘religious doctrine’ in TN schools before 10th grade

No Tennessee public school course could include anything deemed “religious doctrine” unless the course is taught in 10th, 11th or 12th grade if a newly proposed bill becomes law, according to The Tennessean.

The bill from Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, (HB1418) comes on the heels of complaints from some parents in several communities as to what their children are learning in middle school about Islam.

“I think that probably the teaching that is going on right now in seventh, eighth grade is not age appropriate,” Butt said Friday afternoon. “They are not able to discern a lot of times whether its indoctrination or whether they’re learning about what a religion teaches.”

Parents in Williamson County, Maury County and several other areas have complained about information contained in courses related to world history. Some, like U.S. Rep Diane Black, R-Tenn., argue the teachings border on indoctrination.

Tennessee education officials and teachers recently argued courses were appropriate and based on secular fact during a discussion of the curriculum with The Tennessean. They acknowledged students might learn the Five Pillars of Islam or read from religious texts, but that information is used to provide historical context about the influence the religion had on regions of the world.

…Butt argues her bill isn’t specifically aimed at Islam and that it wouldn’t ban mentioning any religion at the middle school level. The bill says if a religion is mentioned in middle school curriculum, then it is up to the state board of education to make sure “the reference does not amount to teaching any form of religious doctrine to the students.”

“If you’re teaching the Middle East, then of course you’re going to mention the religion that was prevalent in that area,” Butt said. “But to teach the doctrine is another thing. … It’s just a bill about balancing the teaching of religion in education.”