Idaho governor vetoes bill allowing use of the Bible as reference material in public schools

Idaho Governor Butch Otter delivers a speech.(Facebook/Gov Butch Otter)

Republican Idaho Governor Butch Otter has vetoed a bill that would allow the use of Bible as reference material in public schools, saying it could result in loss of funding and lawsuits.

Senate Bill 1342 was passed by the Idaho legislature last month permitting the use of the Bible in public schools "for reference purposes to further the study of literature, comparative religion, English and foreign languages, United States and world history, comparative government, law, philosophy, ethics, astronomy, biology, geology, world geography, archaeology, music, sociology, and other topics of study where an understanding of the Bible may be useful or relevant."

It said no student will be required to use any religious texts for reference if the student or parents object.

But Otter sees it otherwise.

He said that while he has "deep respect and appreciation for the Bible as religious doctrine as well as a piece of historic literature," he cannot allow the Bible to be used in public schools.

"However, allowing S1342 to become law is a direct contravention to the Idaho Constitution and it could result in the loss of funding and costly litigation for Idaho public schools," he said in his veto letter to Idaho Secretary of State Lawrence Denney.

The bill passed the state Senate with a 31-3 vote and the House with a 54-15 vote. It was sent to the governor's office on March 24.

In his letter, Otter said the bill violates the Idaho Constitution, which states that "no sectarian or religious tenants or doctrines shall ever be taught in the public schools nor shall any distinction or classification of pupils be made on account of race or color."

It also mandates that "no books, papers, tracts or documents of a political, sectarian or denominational character shall be used or introduced in any schools ... nor shall any teacher or any district receive any of the public school monies in which the schools have not been taught in accordance with the provisions of this article."

State Sen. Cheryl Nuxoll, who introduced the bill, was disappointed with Otter's veto.

"People with last names like Washington, Adams, and Madison blatantly identified the Bible as that reference point. They feared not having it would result in corruption and misuse of taxpayer funds. Are they right?" she asked, as quoted by the Christian News Network.

Rep. Sage Dixon said, "I am disappointed in the Governor's decision, although not too surprised."

"The Bible, in particular, is indispensable to correctly understanding the foundations of Western government and law. I will continue to advocate the merits of this bill in the future," he said.