Legislators Beware

Bible Classes In Public Schools Raise Serious Issues

Legislators in Oklahoma, Kentucky and elsewhere are considering bills that would create special public school classes centering on the Bible.

Americans United recommends caution. In other states, Bible courses have been used as a cover to promote sectarian views or elevate one understanding of the Bible above others. A better approach is to integrate objective study about religion into the curriculum when it’s appropriate.

But if lawmakers are intent on creating Bible courses, they must make sure teachers are properly trained and have policies in place to keep indoctrination out of the classroom,

They should also steer clear of a curriculum published by a North Carolina group called the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBCPS).

This organization’s curriculum parrots fundamentalist dogma, promotes creationism and attempts to discredit church-state separation. Mark A. Chancey, associate professor in the Department of Religious Studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, did an extensive study of the NCBCPS’s curriculum in 2007. He was not impressed, noting that it is full of factual errors and fundamentalist canards.

Observed Chancey, “The overall impression the various editions convey is of an inability to differentiate between pseudoscience, urban legends, fringe theories, and mainstream scholarship as well as between faith claims and nonsectarian descriptions…. In short, students will leave this course with the understanding of the Bible apparently held by most members of the NCBCPS and with little awareness of views held by other religious groups or within the academic community.”

A federal court has already declared the National Council’s curriculum unconstitutional in public schools. Any state that mandates its use is courting disaster.

The Supreme Court has never said that objective instruction about religion in public schools is unconstitutional. Indeed, the high court has acknowledged the value in such instruction.

What the National Council and other fundamentalist groups are offering is far removed from an objective and balanced examination of religion. It is dogma, and as such, it should have no place in our public schools.