AZ Gov. Signs Bill Allowing Bible Classes in Public Schools

Photo via Flickr user Erwin Vogelaar

Over the past few years, Arizona has become a hotbed of domestic controversy. The ongoing debate over the state’s immigration policies will now be joined by an equally-controversial decision: The inclusion of Bible classes in public school curriculum.

Back in January, The Blaze first told you about Arizona’s consideration of a bill that would ensure that the Bible found its way into public and charter schools. Rather than using proselytizing as the basis for the law, proponents have argued that the Bible’s historical significance warrants its study in the classroom. Well, it seems these individuals have won the debate — at least for the time being.

This week, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer made it official and signed the controversial bill into law. Arizona is now the sixth state to offer courses in Biblical studies. Now, it’s important to note — before critics find themselves getting worked up over the legislative decision — that the classes aren’t mandatory. Additionally, the elective courses teach students about the Bible’s history as it pertains to its influence on Western civilization (this is starkly different than, say, preaching based on the holy book’s tenets).

Students will learn about the information present in the Old and New Testaments, the history that is recorded in them and the influence that the book has had on law, literature, art, music and cultural values. Despite this historical and academic focus, some groups are still unhappy with the bill’s passage.

The Christian Post has more about this new coursework:

Sponsored by State Representative Terri Proud, House Bill 2563 was passed by a 21 to 9 vote in the state Senate last Thursday and signed by Brewer on Tuesday.

According to HB 2563, “A school district or charter school may offer an elective course pertaining to how the Bible has influenced western culture for pupils in grades nine through twelve.”

“A teacher who instructs a course offered under this section in its appropriate historical context and in good faith shall be immune from civil liability and disciplinary action,” reads the bill.

“This bill is not about improving academic achievement; it’s about introducing religious indoctrination into the schools and currying favor with conservative religious voters,” Americans United for the Separation of Church and State spokesperson Joe Conn told The Christian Post. “I think most public schools will decide not to offer Bible courses. They are already strapped for funds, so I doubt if they’ll want to use scarce resources to intervene in such a controversial topic.”

Conn says that, because there are many interpretations of the Bible, there may be constitutional and religious conflicts when it comes to trying to parse through the information to teach about the book in a more historical light. But State Representative Terri Proud, the bill’s original sponsor, disagrees.

“Many professors from various universities like Harvard, Yale etc. have stated that biblical knowledge is a key factor to a successful education,” Proud explained, according to the Post. “As the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly said: ‘[It] might well be said that one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion, or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization.'”

(H/T: The Christian Post)