Learning Right from Wrong: How to Teach the Bible in Public Schools.

Author:Newman, Emily
Position:UP FRONT

"If Exposure to the Bible has an almost magical influence against crime and the moral/ethical slide of our youth and our nation," wrote Dr. Robert L. Simonds in a 1996 article published by the Institute for Creation Research and titled, "Teaching the Bible in Public Schools?" Simonds answered his question with a definitive yes, but the Bible continues to be used to justify violence towards non-Christians, LGBTQ people, and women. Like others who fight to include the Bible in public schools, Simonds praises its importance in literature, art, history, and culture. Sure, the Bible is an influential book--technically a series of books--that can be useful "when presented objectively as a part of a secular program of education," according to the Supreme Court.

While it's constitutional for public schools to teach children about religion, it's unconstitutional to promote particular or sectarian religious beliefs in public schools. Courses that only teach the Bible, without inclusion of other religious texts or philosophies, provide a very limited perspective of the world and its people. (On January 28, 2019, the Welsh government decided to add humanism to religious education curriculum, and others in the UK are pushing for similar additions.) And there are hundreds of different English translations of the Bible, proving that people have always struggled with how literal the text should be understood.

Last year a wave of bills were introduced in state legislatures that would've allowed or required schools to offer elective courses about the Bible--if they had passed. The ACLU was unable to stop Kentucky House Bill 128, which allowed public schools to offer Bible literacy classes as an elective, but have been closely monitoring schools after their investigation found several teachers were using Sunday school materials and making students memorize verses. The legislation in multiple states directly quoted the Project Blitz handbook developed by the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation (CPCF), a hyper-conservative group focused on promoting "traditional Judeo-Christian religious values and beliefs in the public square." CPCF states that the purpose of a Bible studies course is to:

  1. Teach students knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture, including literature, art, music, mores, oratory, and public policy;

  2. Familiarize students with, as applicable: (i)...

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