Regardless of one’s personal opinions on Christianity, it’s undeniable that the Bible is the most influential book in history.
Considering its impact on nearly every sector of society, there’s an argument to be made that its study holds beneficial tenets for children and adults, alike. This notion — that the Bible holds cultural significance — is the rationale behind a new Arizona proposal that would bring the study of the holy book to public and charter high schools.
Of course, the proposed bills that would make this a reality may draw ire from some who take an exhaustive view of the separation of church and state. This in mind, it’s important to note that the course would be an elective that it would be governed by very specific requirements. Furthermore, it would focus upon the influence of the Bible on art, literature and other subjects, rather than pushing the theological arguments that comprise the Christian belief system down students’ throats.
If enacted, the laws, proposed by Republican state Rep. Terri Proud (Tucson, AZ), would make Arizona the sixth state in the union to allow schools to offer an elective course that studies the Bible. Similar classes already exist in Georgia, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. The Huffington Post has more about the two bills that would create and frame parameters for the course:
House Bill 2473, proposed by Republican state Rep. Terri Proud, would allow high schools to offer an elective course on the “critical evaluation and examination of the Bible as a literary work” beginning June 30, 2013.
A second proposal, HB 2563, would require the State Board of Education to determine requirements for a high school course titled “The Bible and its influence on Western Culture,” which would include lessons on the history, literature and influence of the Old and New testaments on laws, government and culture, among other aspects of society.
While the state doesn’t currently forbid the use of the Bible or religious documents in public-school instruction (though there are very specific guidelines for using these items), Proud claims that some teachers, due to the issues that are associated with such instruction, are afraid to approach the subject.
“There is this false perception that separation of church means absolutely no religion in school, that the Bible is not allowed,” Proud said. “That is absolutely not true.”
“There are people out there who hate the Bible and everything about it. That’s fine, but don’t deprive our children of biblical literature because of your personal feelings,” she continued.
Victoria Lopez, a program director with the American Civil Liberties Union, finds the proposals problematic, as it is often difficult for teachers to properly approach the subject of religion in the classroom. This is particularly challenging in ensuring that educators don’t indoctrinate students by sharing their personal beliefs.
“It’s very easy for teachers to cross the line and violate students’ religious rights,” Lopez says. “There’s a lot of room here for those violations to take place.”
While other church-state separatist groups have similar concerns about the proper training of the teachers who instruct these Bible course, some are fine with the proposed legislation.
In fact, Marc Victor, a lawyer who works with the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist group, says that the course is absolutely fine it it’s done “in an intellectually honest, non-biased way.” He even called it, pending it meets these criteria, “a great idea.”
With all of these factors in mind, what do you think? Do elective Bible courses belong in public schools? Take our poll, below: