A Kentucky Senate Education Committee on Thursday approved a bill that would set up guidelines for Bible courses to be taught in public schools.
The committee members unanimously approved legislation that calls on the Kentucky Board of Education to establish parameters for an elective course on the Bible that focuses on the Christian Holy Book’s influence on literature, art, music, morals, oratory and public policy. The proposal says the course must adhere to federal and state laws about religious neutrality.
Sen. David Boswell, the chief sponsor of the bill, said he believes the legislation is constitutional because the Bible would not be taught from a religious standpoint but from a literary one. Teachers will be teaching, not preaching, from the Bible, he maintained.
“The Bible is the most widely read book, and it’s also the most best-selling book of all time,” Boswell said, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. “There are so many aspects of the Scriptures relevant to the subjects we are already teaching.”
Critics of the idea of allowing elective Bible courses in public schools are already making their opinions known.
“It’s not clearly unconstitutional on its face, but it will likely lead to a host of unconstitutional actions by school boards,” said Michael Aldridge, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, according to The Associated Press. “It’s obviously kind of a backdoor means to open the door to teach unconstitutional Bible courses in public schools.”
Kentucky’s move towards installing a Bible course in public schools follows in the footsteps of Texas. In July 2008 the Texas State Board of Education approved establishing a Bible elective for high schools.
Currently, the Texas State Board of Education is also evaluating and revising standards for the new social studies curriculum in public schools. The revised curriculum could amplify the influence that the Christian religion had on the founding of the United States. The board was originally scheduled to hold a final vote on the revised curriculum in March, but after intense debate from members of the public, the board said additional time was needed to evaluate and revise curriculum standards. The vote was delayed to May.