A proposed bill in Florida is drawing attention even before it’s hit the floor of the House of Representatives for its requirement that Florida high schools include a Bible elective among their courses. A seemingly identical bill stalled earlier this year in the House, but the representative behind the proposal, Rep. Kimberly Daniels (D) of Jacksonville, is not backing down.
If passed, House Bill 341 would go into effect July 1, 2020.
This is the second time Daniels has brought this bill before the house. In January 2019, she filed essentially the same bill (House Bill 195). It died in a subcommittee in May, and now Daniels is taking up the cause once more for the 2020 session.
HB 341 Would Require Bible Class in Florida High Schools
Schools in Florida currently have the option to offer religious studies classes as electives, but Daniels’ bill would make it a requirement for all schools to offer such classes. Earlier this year, on Daniels’ first attempt, she argued that such studies do not violate the constitution since they would be taught “objectively.” She cited a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court opinion on a similar case to back up her argument. As WJCT reported in March, Daniels said the bill “protects constitutional rights of students to be free from impermissible religious instruction by requiring an objective study of the Bible that does not convert or evangelize students.”
Also in March, a fellow representative challenged the notion that the courses could be “objective” since they don’t also offer teaching on other books considered holy, such as the Quran. Rep. Anna Eskamani (D) asked Daniels “Would you consider adding the Quran to your bill to be a friendly amendment, as another holy book that can be taught ‘objectively,’ to your language?”
Daniels turned down that idea immediately.
It’s important to note that while the proposed bill would require schools to offer the courses, it wouldn’t require students to take them (the classes would be elective). Still, any school in Florida would need to either hire someone or reassign a current teacher to teach the class. In March, the question of funding such an endeavor came up. At that time, Daniels didn’t have a plan for how to fund such classes. It is unclear whether the senator has a plan for funding this time around.
Another potential point of contention is what translation of the Bible would be used in these classes. The bill states the students will be required to use a particular translation.
Who Is Rep. Kimberly Daniels?
In addition to being a politician, Daniels is also an evangelical minister. She’s the lead pastor of Spoken Word Ministries and the author of several Christian books. While some of her constituents admire her faith and the readiness with which she speaks of it, others are not so thrilled. In July, Daniels faced criticism for deleting comments and blocking people who were posting negative comments on her Facebook posts having to do with faith. Daniels, who has both a public profile and a personal profile on Facebook, often posts videos of herself preaching and promotes her ministry’s events on her public profile.
She also faced a lawsuit last year which was filed from a former legislative aide she fired. Karen Riggien says she was mistreated by Daniels, in part because of what was required of her. Riggien alleges that part of her duties included helping Daniels’ son “gain admission to Florida State University” and “working on (her) home insurance.”
Daniels has faced multiple legal challenges. Last year, she confessed to filing false financial disclosures in 2012, 2013, and 2014. In 2017, she paid a $1,500 fine to settle a complaint that she used campaign funds to promote her book, The Demon Dictionary. This complaint dates back to 2015, when Daniels was on the City Council for Jacksonville, Florida.
So far, Daniels’ bill has only been filed to the House of Representatives. She has not made a public comment on the bill or her hopes of its passing during the upcoming 2020 session.