Bible Literacy Classes

One of the highlights of the last legislative session, I thought, was the Republican opposition to the Democrats’ Bible Literacy bill.

The Republicans were filibustering the Bible bill. On a Tuesday afternoon in early February, Republican legislators in Alabama took to the crimson-carpeted floor of the state house to oppose legislation that would authorize an elective course on the Bible in public high schools. The recommended curriculum for the course had been vouched for by Christian Right all-stars like Chuck Colson and Ted Haggard, but so far as Republicans were concerned, there was only one pertinent piece of information about the bill: It was sponsored by two Democrats. And now Republicans were prepared to do everything in their procedural power to stop it, even if that meant lining up to explain why they could not—could not!—stand for this attempt to bring a class about the Bible into public schools.

Of course, in addition to protecting their monopoly on religion, the reason they opposed it was that the bill required what appears to be a fair minded and religiously neutral text.

On the same day that Alabama Republicans launched their filibuster of the Bible literacy bill, state GOP chairwoman Twinkle Cavanaugh published an op-ed that charged the Bible curriculum was written by “ultra-liberal groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, the Council for Islamic Education, and the People for the American Way.”

The typical Twinkle response, but with a twist: It must be really bad, because it isn’t just liberals, but ULTRA liberals. Also typically, Twinkle misstated the facts. Here is the truth.

While the Bible Literacy Project has received much acclaim from a wide range of faith leaders, scholars, and the media, it has NOT been endorsed by the ACLU or similar groups. These inaccurate claims have been spread by competitors in attempts to label the BLP as liberal, when in fact, the Bible Literacy Project has wide support across the board, including national evangelical leaders such as Chuck Colson, Vonette Bright, Joe Stowell, and Ted Haggard; respected scholars from Wheaton, Westmont, and Gordon Colleges; and Peter Lillback of Westminster Seminary.

In addition to the endorsement of the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, the textbook–reviewed by 41 scholars from a variety of backgrounds–has the endorsement of the general counsel of the American Jewish Congress, the chair of the Catholic Biblical Association, and Charles Haynes, Senior Scholar of The First Amendment Center.

We have built a product that will make every child in America feel respected-whether devout or skeptic. It presents the content and narrative of the Bible in a straightforward fashion and preserves the ability of the home and house of worship to teach their perspective.

Another reason for the opposition was that the individual districts ought to be free to make their own choices about any Bible curriculum. In that regard, read this new study about how leaving it to the districts worked in Texas. From the summary:

Recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in teaching Bible courses in public schools, especially in Texas. If presented within guidelines established by the courts to protect religious freedom, such courses can be an excellent and desirable way to help students understand the unique importance of the Bible in history and literature. As this new report from the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund shows, however, teaching the Bible in Texas public schools is currently fraught with problems. Reading, Writing and Religion: Teaching the Bible in Texas Public Schools reveals that, with a few notable exceptions, the public school courses currently taught in Texas often fail to meet minimal academic standards for teacher qualifications, curriculum, and academic rigor; promote one faith perspective over all others; and push an ideological agenda that is hostile to religious freedom, science and public education itself.

I’ve said in previous posts that I think academic Bible literacy courses are a good idea. Though I am sure that the Democrats’ bill was introduced largely to make the Republicans look stupid – which it did – the bad motives don’t make it a bad bill. Hopefully next time both parties can seriously consider it.

Advertisements
Explore posts in the same categories: Alabama Legislature, God and government, Religion

8 Comments on “Bible Literacy Classes”

  1. Dan Says:

    Any Bible literacy course will probably turn into a preaching session, but I think it’s a good idea in principle.

  2. Willie Says:

    My stance is if you want your kids to learn about the Bible send them to Sunday School!

  3. Don Says:

    I’m surprised that Wheeler hasn’t been as thorough as he usually is in commenting on this. Part of the rest of the story is that Bible Literacy classes are already available as an elective in some Alabama schools using a different textbook than the one that would have been required by Hammett’s and Guin’s bill. Opponents may have had a variety of reasons for opposing it other than those Wheeler mentions. Some legislators opposed it because the bill was strongly objected to by at least two members of the state school board on the grounds that the bill would have by-passed the board’s prerogative to approve textbooks, which may have been in violation of current state law or procedures governing the board.

  4. wheeler Says:

    Don,

    “I’m surprised that Wheeler hasn’t been as thorough as he usually is in commenting on this. Part of the rest of the story is that Bible Literacy classes are already available as an elective in some Alabama schools using a different textbook.”

    uhmm, Don, did you not read the last paragraph of the post? i mentioned this objection, and then offered an example of what can happen when the issue is left to individual schools or school boards.

    “Opponents may have had a variety of reasons for opposing it other than those Wheeler mentions.”

    sure they did, but the only ones i ever heard are the ones mentioned in this post: the book is a liberal attempt to undermine christianity, and; the choice ought to be up to the individual schools. the former is utter stupidity, and the latter is probably not good policy.

  5. Don Says:

    Wheeler, the last paragraph of your post reads:
    “I’ve said in previous posts that I think academic Bible literacy courses are a good idea. Though I am sure that the Democrats’ bill was introduced largely to make the Republicans look stupid – which it did – the bad motives don’t make it a bad bill. Hopefully next time both parties can seriously consider it.”

    I don’t see anything there about Bible Literacy classes already being available.

    If the objections you mentioned are the only ones you’ve heard of you must not have followed the controversy in MSM and in the legislature.

  6. wheeler Says:

    don,

    1) sorry, penultimate paragraph.

    2) so what were the other objections?

  7. Don Says:

    Penultimate wasn’t in my vocabulary so I had to consult a dictionary, but your next to last paragraph says nothing about bible literacy classes that are already available in Alabama schools either.

    Other objections: I didn’t follow the issue closely while it was in the legislature or save any of the numerous newspaper articles that dealt with it, but I recall various objections from several different sources were mentioned. Likely, members of the state school board could tell you what they were.


  8. […] seriously doubt the motives behind the bill. If the goal was encouraging serious academic debate, I would wholeheartedly support it. But the goal appears to be propagandizing the Christian faith: The bill baldly […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: