PARKERSBURG — A bill proposed by a Wood County senator requiring schools to provide an elective course in biblical teachings could shake things like Joshua’s horns.
Senate Bill 252, sponsored by Republican Senators Mike Azinger of Wood County and Sue Cline of Wyoming County, would require all schools to offer an elective course in the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament of the Bible or the New Testament of the Bible for the purpose of teaching students “knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry and narratives which are prerequisites for understanding contemporary society and culture, including literature, art, music, mores, eloquence and public policies” and familiarize students with the content, history, and literary style of the Hebrew Scriptures or New Testament and their influence on law, history, government, literature, art, music, customs, morals, values and culture.
News of the bill’s introduction reached the Freedom from Religion Foundation, which found it “to be very concerned” Patrick Elliott, senior counsel for the organization, said.
“The Bible is not a textbook” he said. “It’s a holy book.”Among its provisions, SB 252 allows students to use a translation of their choice, requires teacher certification, and respects federal and state laws on religious neutrality. “while taking into account the various religious opinions of the students.”
Not the least of the problems with the bill is constitutionality, Elliott said. Further, it requires that choice be offered in all schools, including elementary schools where young students are of an impressionable age, Elliott said.
School systems will face lawsuits when implementing choice, he said.
“I haven’t personally heard of them (the Freedom from Religion Foundation) or the ACLU,” Azinger said. “They will appear at some point.”
The bill was copied from legislation passed last year in Kentucky, Azinger said. The Kentucky law is also unconstitutional, but challenges would come in implementing it, Elliott said.
The Bible was an integral part of America’s history, Azinger said. Laws were founded on it, colleges were founded on it, and schools were founded to teach children to read it, he said.
“Our country was built on the Bible,” Azinger said.
The Legislative Assembly met on January 10. SB 252 was introduced on January 11 and referred to the Education Committee.
As an elective, the Bible is as outstanding a book as other book electives offered in schools, said Reverend Dan Stevens of the Bible Baptist Church of Parkersburg. Stevens participated in last year’s discussion of the non-discrimination ordinance before Parkersburg City Council.
Stevens would not support requiring students to take a Bible course. The law does not oblige students to take the course, but requires it as an optional course.
“I would not force students to take the course”, Stevens said.