Jacksonville Democratic Rep. Kimberly Daniels might literally be the craziest person in the Florida Legislature right now. She is a former "exorcist" who called herself the "Demonbuster." Though she holds multiple theological degrees from a Christian seminary and has written 13 books about Christian spirituality, some of those volumes cover exorcising evil spirits. She has expressed positive sentiments about slavery, "thanked God" that her ancestors were enslaved, and shouted in a speech that "Jews own everything!" Just yesterday she admitted she once filed fake campaign-finance reports.
Now she wants to make sure Florida public-school students are getting their likely illegal dose of Jesus Christ: Fresh off passing a measure last year that mandated placing the words "In God We Trust" in public schools, Daniels filed a bill yesterday that would require that state-funded schools offer Christian Bible-study classes as electives.
The proposal would force public high schools to create several electives: a general world religions class (which is a pretty normal idea, to be fair) as well as multiple standalone courses on the "objective study of the Bible." Schools would be forced to run three electives, including "a course on the Hebrew Scriptures and Old Testament of the Bible, a course on the New Testament of the Bible," and a combination course on "the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament of the Bible, and the New Testament of the Bible." (Hat-tip to Florida Politics for first noting the filing late yesterday afternoon.)
Hilariously, Daniels' proposal includes a disclaimer stating that she is somehow not violating laws separating church and state and that her Bible-only course won't "promote or disfavor" one religion over another. The bill states:
A course offered pursuant to this section must:
1. Be offered as an elective course for students in grades 9 through 12.
2. Follow all state and federal laws and guidelines in maintaining religious neutrality and accommodating the diverse religious views, traditions, and perspectives of all students in the school. A course offered pursuant to this section may not endorse, favor, or promote or disfavor or show hostility toward a particular religion, religious perspective, or nonreligious faith.
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The obvious problem, of course, is she's not proposing mandatory courses on Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, or other faiths, which sure makes it seem she's favoring one religion over another! Moreover, it's pretty darn clear where Daniels is coming from here: She's a bonkers Christian evangelist rather than a historian of world religions.
Daniels' history with the Christian faith is really long and really, really weird. When she first tried to run for office in 2011, Jacksonville media noted her past jobs included literally trying to exorcise "gay demons" from LGBTQ people. In fact, she's so obsessed with Christian spirits that she has written multiple books about encountering evil spirits in the wild. In one 2005 text, she wrote she invoked Jesus' name to keep her safe from "demon birds" that had been cast upon her by "voodoo doctors." In another instance, she claimed she prayed to break "bonds" established between Barack Obama and "the Illuminati." She has said "anti-Christ" spirits "rule The View and CNN News." She has compared sex-change surgeries to "occult rituals." She claimed her church building was once haunted by demonic cockroaches and "giant ants" that attacked her. She once wrote that most Halloween candy is secretly cursed by witches and that godless people have "orgies" with animals on Halloween. She has said that multiple natural disasters, including the 2010 Haiti earthquake and 2017's Hurricane Irma, were retribution from God. She has published a three-volume series of books called the Demon Dictionary. She recently said she prayed to keep "witches and warlocks" away from Donald Trump, whom she supports. We could go on and on and on. (The Palm Beach Post once astutely referred to her as a "religious huckster.")
Daniels, a former Jacksonville City Council member, was elected to the state House of Representatives in 2016. Since then, she's been on a spiritual quest to cram as much Jesus into public schooling as possible. In addition to the "In God We Trust" law, she sponsored a bill that would have strengthened the rights of students to "express religion" in schools. LGBTQ groups, however, worried the bill would give religious fundamentalists more leeway to discriminate against gay students. It would have also given students the right to pray at most public events.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a group that fights the legalization of prayer in schools, said last year that Daniels was clearly using her political platform to "promote her religion." In fact, the foundation noted Daniels has repeatedly admitted that is her goal. In one sermon uploaded to YouTube, Daniels openly stated that "God had to anoint" her to "write laws and to be able to debate and write legislation so that His Kingdom could come and manifest itself like never before.”