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The Bible as an elective course in public schools
From: "Cheryl Shepherd-Adams"
Date: Mon, 01 Aug 2005 20:39:39 -0500

Subject: The Bible as an elective course in public schools

Yes, it's in Texas; but a Hays minister proposed exactly this same thing in
the "Faith" column in the Kansas Hays Daily News earlier this summer.  He
wasn't proposing a comparative religion course, mind you, but a course in
just the Bible.

Don't forget that that Abrams of the KS BoE shot down proposed
curriculum standards for a comparative religion class last summer;
obviously, they want no comparisons made.

Here is my reply to the Texas "Freedom" Network's proposed curriculum:
by Terri Murray

As any serious Biblical scholar knows, the King James version is not the
authoritative English translation of the Bible.  The version used in any
genuinely academic institute is the Revised New Standard Version.  But even
if public, taxpayer funded schools wanted to teach Bible study using the
correct version of the Bible, it would violate the establishment clause of
the First Amendment as applied to the States through the Fourteenth
Amendment. This proposed Biblical curriculum represents an attempt to
overturn the Supreme Court's decision in Abington School District V. Schempp
(1963), in which the court held that "We have come to recognize through
bitter experience that it is not within the power of government to invade
[the inviolable citadel of the individual heart and mind], whether its
purpose or effect be to aid or oppose, to advance or retard."

The Biblical curriculum's sponsors intend to distinguish their practice from
Abington by showing that, instead of having to 'opt-out' of a compulsory
religious curriculum, students can instead voluntarily 'opt-in.' In
Abington, Henry Sawyer, counsel for the Schempps, argued that the free
exercise clause of the First Amendment did not give any religious group the
constitutional right to pray under the aegis of the state, regardless of
whether that group constituted a majority.  If the school allowed students
to use their classrooms, and their PA systems, and to take time from the
student's school day to conduct even a VOLUNTARY Bible lesson or prayer
session, this amounted to an establishment of religion by the state.  In the
Court's decision, the justices referred to the decision in Engel V. Vitale
(1962) in which the Court said:

  "When the power and prestige and financial support of government is placed
behind a particular religious belief, the indirect coercive pressure upon
religious minorities to conform to the prevailing officially approved
religion is plain..."

The court also noted that it had rejected unequivocally the contention that
the Establishment Clause forbids only governmental preference of one
religion over another.  This was stated so as to thwart any proposal to
counter the 'coercive pressure' of the majority religion  by teaching all
(or more) religions in schools.

Justice Tom Clark, writing for the majority in Abington, emphasized that
"the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities" in
classes that do not involve "religious exercizes".  But this would also
apply to the Torah, the Koran and many other religious books.  The fact of
the matter is that the Bible has no more authority than Moby Dick, except in
the minds of those who freely choose to give it such authority. This is what
the word FAITH means. If belief in this book's authority were compelled by
external human authorites, it would violate the inviolable citadel of the
individual human mind and thus would not fit the definition of 'belief' at
all.  I'm afraid this is exactly what our Texas "Freedom" Network intend.
Last updated: August-2005