Senate Panel in Kentucky Backs Bible-Literacy Bill

By Erik W. Robelen — February 19, 2010 1 min read
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Just as Kentucky this month became the first state to adopt common academic standards for math and English/language arts, a Senate committee in the Bluegrass State has unanimously approved a bill to establish guidelines for teaching Bible literacy in public schools.

Stories from the Associated Press and the Courier-Journal newspaper of Louisville both describe the effort, with somewhat different angles.

“The purpose is to allow the Bible to be used for its literature content as well as its art and cultural and social studies content,” the AP quotes state Sen. David Boswell, a Democrat and the chief sponsor, saying of the bill.

The bill calls for the Kentucky Board of Education to establish guidelines for an elective course on the Bible. It states that the course must “follow applicable law and all federal and state guidelines in maintaining religious neutrality and accommodating the diverse religious views, traditions, and perspectives of students in the school.”

It’s apparently modeled after a similar measure in Texas. But, of course, it’s one thing to pass a law. A story last fall from the Dallas Morning News suggests implementing the Texas measure is proving a little more complicated.

“The law provides no specific guidelines, funding for materials or teacher training. So high schools are left scrambling to figure out what to teach and how to teach it,” the story explains. “A handful of North Texas districts are offering an elective class, but most are choosing instead to embed Old and New Testament teachings into current classes.”

The head of the ACLU of Kentucky said some of the comments made by lawmakers in favor of the measure suggest that their true intent is to endorse the establishment of religion.

“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 from the state’s ACLU chapter, according to the AP. “It’s obviously kind of a backdoor means to open the door to teach unconstitutional Bible courses in public schools.”

For a bigger takeout on the issue of teaching the Bible in public schools, check out this Time magazine article from 2007.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.