DepEd says mandatory bible reading may ‘trigger a lot of passionate debates’

Published October 21, 2019, 9:50 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Merlina Hernando-Malipot

Education Secretary Leonor Briones said that the proposed mandatory bible reading in public schools needs “careful” study and consideration since it may “raise a lot of questions” and “trigger a lot of debates” from various sectors.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones (DEPED / MANILA BULLETIN)
Education Secretary Leonor Briones

“We have to think very, very carefully about making it mandatory for public schools because you have the separation of Church and State to consider and that’s Constitutional,” Briones said in an earlier press conference.

Minority Leader Bienvenido Abante Jr. earlier filed House Bill 2069 or the proposed Mandatory Bible Reading Act of 2019 which aims to make Bible reading a part of the curriculum of public school – both in elementary and secondary schools. In filing the said bill, he noted that “if only Biblical discipline, principles and standards are taught and inculcated in the minds of our children, there would be no[t as] much problems on leadership, governance, and peace and order.”

Briones noted that Christian schools “encourage” the mandatory bible reading among their students “because that’s part of the curriculum.” She added that private schools are “allowed to do that on their own.”

Bible reading, Briones said, may already be mandatory for Christian schools but when it comes for students in public schools, she noted: “I’m not so sure.” DepEd noted that there might also be also “implications to our resources” — among others and so on.

“Although in the textbooks, we have stories based on the bible – stories about Solomon, David, Adam and Eve – but making it mandatory might raise a lot of questions and may trigger also a lot of debates because of the constitutional requirements,” she added.

While Briones recognizes that “there are many stories that and lessons that we can learn from the Bible,” the said proposal has to be considered carefully because “to make it mandatory may trigger a lot of passionate debates.”

Earlier, lawyer and education advocate Joseph Noel Estrada cautioned that this proposal is “violative of the principle of separation of Church and State and the Non-Establishment of religion provision in our Constitution.”

Estrada, who also serves as the Managing Director Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) – the largest organization of private schools in the country – stressed that public institutions “should remain public” and secular.

“Once government money is used for mandating the practice of a belief or religion as in the case of a law mandating the reading of the Bible in all public schools (and obviously purchase of Bibles for distribution in the public schools), clearly there is establishment of religion violative of the Constitution,” Estrada ended.