Americans United Urges South Carolina School District To Discontinue Biased Bible Class

Dorchester County Officials Should Steer Clear Of Materials That Promote One Faith Perspective Over Others, Church-State Watchdog Group Says

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has urged a South Carolina public school district to drop a new course on the Bible, arguing that the class fails to meet constitutional requirements.

The elective at Fort Dorchester High School is based in part on two textbooks that Americans United charges promote a mostly Christian interpretation of the Bible The Bible and Its Influence published by the Bible Literacy Project and material produced by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools.

“The purpose of public school classes should be education, not indoctrination,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “Some of the material being proposed for classroom use in South Carolina reads more like a Sunday School lesson than objective academics.”

In a letter to Dorchester school officials, Americans United Litigation Counsel Aram A. Schvey wrote, “Because the Bible has considerable significance in Western literature and history, there can be a proper role for it in a public-school curriculum. But there are enormous risks in offering these kinds of courses. We therefore urge you to cancel the Bible class.

“If you nonetheless decide to offer it,” Schvey continued, “we ask that it be taught using a secular and academically rigorous curriculum, instead of the heavily flawed texts that are presently being used.”

The Sept. 7 letter notes that portions of the curriculum produced by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools have already been ruled unconstitutional by a federal court, and use of the group’s materials is currently being challenged in a federal lawsuit in Odessa, Texas.

It also points out that academic experts have criticized the Bible Literacy Project’s The Bible and Its Influence for pushing a Christian perspective, lacking rigorous scholarship and relying on writers and editors who are not biblical scholars.

The Americans United letter was sent to Dorchester School District Superintendent Joseph Pye, Principal Jim Atkinson of Fort Dorchester High School and the seven members of the district’s Board of Trustees.

The South Carolina legislature has passed a law that instructs the state Department of Education to adopt academic standards and appropriate instructional materials for two optional courses on the Bible: History and Literature of the Old Testament and History and Literature of the New Testament. Similar laws have been passed in Georgia and Texas and have been proposed in other states.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.