Alabama recently became the first state in the country to approve a controversial Bible literacy textbook for use in public schools, but critics are now questioning how the decision was made.
The Alabama State Board of Education approved The Bible and Its Influence on Oct. 11. The text was one of 2,500 tomes on a list of books being considered for approval. Some board members later admitted they had not read the full list. About two weeks later, a few of them raised concerns about the book.
“I did not know it was on the list,” Education Superintendent Joe Morton said. “I don’t think any member knew it was on the list, but [the list] passed unanimously.”
The Bible and Its Influence was produced by the Bible Literacy Project and is promoted as a way to constitutionally teach about the Bible in public schools. Groups favoring church-state separation like Americans United have asserted that Project sponsor Chuck Stetson is a Religious Right activist and the book is tilted toward an evangelical interpretation of the Bible.
At the same time, some fundamentalists have attacked the volume for not promoting a literalist view of the Bible.
Some members of the Alabama board have asserted that since the book is controversial, they should have been alerted to its presence on the list. But Morton, insisting that proper procedures were followed, said the text will remain.
Following the vote, the Bible Literacy Project issued a press statement trumpeting the school board action and lauding Alabama for designating the book “as a comprehensive literature curriculum for the state.”
Board members revisited the topic in November but decided not to reopen the vote.
“I don’t have any serious problems with the book,” said board member Randy McKinney.
Some fundamentalists in Alabama are mobilizing against use of the book. According to The Alabama Baptist, a group called Alabama Citizens Action Program and the state branch of the Eagle Forum oppose use of The Bible and Its Influence in the classroom.
Eunie Smith of the Eagle Forum told the Baptist newspaper that the book “needs more revisions if it is to reach the high view of scripture under which Alabama Baptists would want their children taught.”