Michigan Republicans Pitch ‘Unconstitutional’ Bill to Force Religious Teachings in Public Schools

State Rep. Joseph Fox is sworn into office. (State Representative Joseph Fox via Facebook)

By Kyle Kaminski

June 5, 2023

Forget the separation of church and state. New legislation from Michigan Republicans would require students in public schools learn about “Christian foundations” before they can graduate.

LANSING—Legislation introduced late last month by ten Republican lawmakers in the Michigan House of Representatives aims to change the way public schools go about teaching history and social studies lessons to Michigan children—namely by ordering more lessons on Christianity.

House Bill 4672—introduced by state Rep. Joseph Fox (R-Fremont) on May 25—aims to amend state law to mandate that “Christian foundations of the United States” be taught in all public schools. Nine Republican lawmakers have since signed on to co-sponsor the legislation.

Fox is a former Christian school administrator, teacher, missionary, and pastor. In a statement, he said the legislation is an attempt to “restore educational sanity” to public school curricula by teaching how early American colonialism was “intimately tied to Christianity” throughout history.

Specifically, the GOP bill would require that all history classes in public schools include lessons on how pilgrims emigrated because of religious persecution; how that persecution influenced American colonialism; and how “the communities cultivated democratic forms of government and Christian ethics simultaneously for the prosperity and safety of the commonwealth.”

The legislation sparked immediate backlash from Democratic lawmakers and other Michiganders who labeled the proposed requirements as an unconstitutional overstep against the Establishment Clause of the Bill of Rights—which has been widely interpreted to call for an inherent separation between any particular religious belief (like Christianity) and government.

State Rep. Noah Arbit (D-West Bloomfield), also tweeted: 

“This Jewish member of the majority party says: Over my dead body.”

In an interview with the Detroit News, Fox said that he doesn’t believe in the separation of church and state as it is usually taught, and also believes that God is in charge of the state government.

Still, Democrats in charge of the state Legislature don’t want to blur the lines that are firmly set out in the US Bill of Rights, and argue Fox’s bill is unconstitutional. The legislation has since been referred to the House Committee on Education, where it will languish without a hearing.

“The Education Committee is committed to advancing legislation that actually benefits Michigan students,” state Rep. Matt Koleszar (D-Northville) tweeted. “We will not take up unconstitutional bills written by people who oppose a well-rounded education in favor of religious indoctrination.”

The bill follows a recent surge in Christian nationalism that has gained steam among right-wing politicians across the country in recent months—including on the west side of the state

Author

  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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