a journal of analysis and comment
advancing public understanding of religion and education
Vol. 34 No. 1
Bible Bills, Bible
Curricula, and Controversies of Biblical Proportions: Legislative Efforts to
Promote Bible Courses in Public Schools
is about more than about God. This
is about politics.” So commented
state Representative Scott Beason on the floor of the Alabama House in January
2006. He was discussing a bill
promoting elective Bible courses in public high schools,[ii]
one of eleven introduced that year in Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, and
Each purportedly aimed to create elective courses that would present the
biblical material “objectively as part of a secular program of education,”
as required by the famous 1963 Supreme Court decision Abington Township
School District v. Schempp (374 U.S. 203 ).[iv]
In Alabama and Georgia, legislative efforts took on a partisan dimension
as Democrats and Republicans introduced rival bills, with Democrats favoring a
textbook produced by the Bible Literacy Project and Republican leaders
expressing support for the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public
Schools. Much of the public
discussion revolved around the Bible Literacy Project textbook, which some
legislators hailed as a model of academic responsibility while others attacked
it as undermining Christianity.
comment was correct: the Bible bills were about both God and politics.
This article serves as a guide to the Bible bill battles of 2006--battles
that seem likely to be repeated in future legislative sessions.
It provides an overview of the two primary curricular options, examines
notable aspects of key bills, and sorts through claims made by legislators,
religious leaders, and interest groups. The bills reflect the efforts of both
major political parties to appear “religion-friendly.” The details of those
bills, however, often reflected a lack of understanding of the complex
pedagogical and legal issues raised by public school religion courses.
The range of reactions to the Bible Literacy Project provides a vivid
example of the difficulties of creating courses that meet the multiple standards
of Constitutionality, academic soundness, and acceptability to a diverse public.
[To Read More]