Opponents of forced religion in schools got a bit of a victory last week when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a 4th Circuit decision that allowed a lawsuit to proceed against a West Virginia school district over an optional Bible course.

A parent sued on behalf of a child who feared ostracism if she refused to take the privately funded, optional Bible course that had been taught by outside instructors in the Mercer district for 75 years. The school dropped the course and sought dismissal of the lawsuit. But the 4th Circuit said the student could continue her claim for damages, even though she moved to another school district.

Said the Freedom from Religion Foundation, which represented the student:

This decision will stand as precedent ensuring that people who are harmed by religious indoctrination in their community can pursue legal action to end those illegal practices.

The case might eventually have some relevance in Arkansas. Right-wing religionists overcame school opposition in the 2019 legislative session and passed a bill requiring school districts to offer a Bible course if students request it. It is not hard to imagine places where someone will organize student groups to demand the course and then organize to promote enrollment.  Peer pressure can be great. See those Meet at the Flagpole events. The new law says a Bible course — which already MAY be taught in Arkansas — must meet rigorous academic standards established by the Education Department. Yes, but. State guidelines also say Arkansas schools should be teaching evolution and comprehensive sex education, but many do not. The Bible, after all, doesn’t believe in evolution or sex before marriage (man-woman only).

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