New Textbook Adds to Debate Over Bible Courses in Public Schools

May 11, 2006

Source: The Associated Press

On May 11, 2006 The Associated Press reported, "The long-dormant idea of teaching public school students about the literary and historic importance of the Bible is getting a fresh look this year from state legislatures and local school boards - though with political bickering and questions about what should be included.

The buzz results mostly from 'The Bible and Its Influence,' a glossy high school textbook with substantial interfaith and academic endorsements. It's available for the coming school year, and some 800 high schools are currently considering the course.

The publisher, the Bible Literacy Project of Front Royal, Va., will issue a teacher's edition next month and is providing online teacher training through Oregon's Concordia University. The group expects no legal problems, but is promising school districts worried about lawsuits that Washington's Becket Fund for Religious Liberty will supply attorneys without charge.

Bible Literacy isn't alone in the field. Its older rival, the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools of Greensboro, N.C., is backed by numerous conservative Protestant activists and says 36 new clients have adopted its program this year, compared with just a couple per month in 2005. Overall, the group says school districts in 37 states with 1,250 high schools use its curriculum... Both efforts pursue an opening created by the U.S. Supreme Court. In a notable 1963 ruling, the court banned ceremonial Bible readings in public schools but allowed 'objective' study of the text in a manner divorced from belief... [Bible Literacy's] textbook is designed to fit with a 1999 agreement it helped broker on coursework and other issues regarding the Bible in schools. That pact was endorsed by, among others, seven major public school organizations, four Jewish and three evangelical groups and the National Council of Churches. "