Alabama and Georgia debate adding Bible classes to public schools.

Lawmakers in Alabama and Georgia are pushing bills that would encourage public schools to offer courses about the study of the Bible and its influence.

In Alabama, the Education Committee of the House of Representatives voted 7-5 in late January to allow high schools to offer an elective course based on a new textbook titled The Bible and Its Influence or other texts as chosen by local districts.

The legislation was introduced by two Democrats, House Majority Leader Ken Guin and House Speaker Seth Hammett. In an unusual split, Republicans opposed the bill and accused Democrats of politicizing God.

"I know what this is about. This is about more than God. This is about politics," said Rep. Scott Beason, a Republican from Gardendale.

Republicans said the bill was unnecessary because schools can already teach about the Bible. One Religious Right activist, the Rev. Dan Ireland, attacked The Bible and Its Influence, saying it contains nude pictures of Adam and Eve.

In Georgia, Democratic state Sen. Kasim Reed has announced he is cosponsoring a similar piece of legislation. Reed's bill would permit high schools to offer a Bible literacy course in grades nine through 12. The bill does not mandate use of The Bible and Its Influence in schools, but given the dearth of materials, that would probably be the text most commonly used.

"This is an important education initiative," said Reed. "The Bible is the basis for much of our history, literature, music and art. It is woven into the very fabric of so many things we teach in Georgia schools."

Republicans accused Reed of grandstanding. "This is election-year pandering using the voter's deepest beliefs as a tool," said Sen. Eric...

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