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Bible class in public education?
Group convinces districts to offer Scripture course as elective


A group dedicated to bringing the Bible back into public schools is continuing its mission to convince local school districts to offer an elective course on the Bible to high-school students by approaching 12 more school districts this month.

The National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools has already seen its materials approved by 151 school districts in 32 states. Currently, over 60,000 public-school students nationwide have taken the course, which presents the Bible as history and literature, using the Bible as the textbook.

Specifically, the course has five main objectives, as stated in the curriculum:

  1. To equip the student with a fundamental understanding of the important literary forms contained in the Bible, as well as people and symbols often referred to in literature, art, and music;


  2. To equip the student with a fundamental understanding of the influence of the Bible on history, law, American community life and culture;


  3. To give insight into the world views of America's Founding Fathers and to understand the Biblical influences on their views on human rights;


  4. To provide greater knowledge of Middle-Eastern history, geography, religion and politics; and


  5. To inform the students of the importance of religion in world and national history, without imposing the doctrine of any particular religious sect.

A total of four semesters are available through the courses titled Bible I and Bible II. Each yearlong program includes a semester each on the Old and New Testaments.

"How can a student study Middle Eastern history without incorporating the Bible?" asks council President Elizabeth Ridenour. "What meaning would Michaelangelo's 'Moses' or Leonardo da Vinci's 'Last Supper' have to students if they don't know about the figures who inspired these works of art? How could some people even consider censoring the best-selling book of all time from our children's education? Do they consider the Bible a 'right-wing' book?"

The Supreme Court, said Ridenour, has declared as legal the teaching of Bible curriculum as an elective on campus during school hours for credit in public high schools. And to back up the validity of the council's curriculum, the group solicited an 11-page legal opinion that states the course materials meet all constitutional guidelines. The opinion was written by five attorneys, including law professors from Notre Dame University and Princeton University.

A secular study by the American Political Science Review on the political documents of the founding fathers showed 94 percent of the documents were based on the Bible. Of that, 34 percent of the contents were direct quotations from the Bible.

"Our Founding Fathers never intended for the Bible to be removed from our public schools," Ridenour remarked, noting that the men "were willing to give their very lives for their beliefs."

Yet, in 1963, the Supreme Court outlawed Bible reading in government-run schools, and in 1980, it banned the 10 Commandments as well. The council claims a causal relationship can be seen between the rulings and "a steep decline" of America's collective virtue and education. About 88 percent of students nationwide are educated in the public school system, and those students have been denied their constitutional right to choose to learn about the Bible in school, the council contends.

"While there are principals, teachers and school boards who serve their communities in truth and fairness, due to misunderstanding and misinterpretation many have assisted in the denial of the constitutional rights of students and teachers. We must reclaim our rights, and we must do this responsibly," said Ridenour. "As President Woodrow Wilson said, 'A nation which does not remember what it was yesterday does not know what it is today nor what it is trying to do.' We are trying to do a futile thing if we do not know where we came from or what we have been about."

So far, various school districts in Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Mississippi, Kentucky, New Mexico, Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia have approved the program and have begun offering the elective. Districts in several other states have approved the curriculum as well, including Texas, which has the highest number of districts onboard at 31.

The council's efforts are endorsed by several prominent public figures, including pastors D. James Kennedy and Jerry Falwell, actress Jane Russell and Capt. Scott O'Grady, who was shot down over Bosnia and later rescued.

Lest the council's efforts be confused with another group promoting Bible curriculum in the context of a comparative religions class, Ridenour makes a distinction between the programs. The courts do not say the Bible may be taught only where multiple religious faiths give their interpretation of the Bible, she said. Her curriculum "teaches what the Bible 'says' and not how others interpret it."

National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools

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