Written by Don Byrd
A bill recently introduced in the Missouri legislature would call for state officials to develop Old and New Testament courses. House Bill 267like other similar recent state proposals across the country, authorizes school districts to offer such courses for the purpose of teaching students “knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and stories that are prerequisites for understanding contemporary society and culture, including literature, art, music, mores, eloquence and public policy.
In one editorial objecting to what it calls an “unnecessary measure”, the editorial board of the Kansas City Star argues that the courts “seem to promote one religion above all others”.
Missouri Schools Already to have the right to use religious books in literature and history classes as long as they are not used in a way that violates the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution, which prohibits the government from favoring any religion….
But teaching a Bible-only classroom in public schools raises avoidable new constitutional and legal issues. Lawmakers are expected to reject the proposal.
The Baptist Joint Committee is part of a coalition of advocates opposed to the coordinated campaign to push such legislation, calling it an “alarming effort…to exploit the power of government to impose the faith of some on everyone, including our public school students.” As Executive Director Amanda Tyler added, “Anything that would send a message to our children that you have to be a Christian to be a full-fledged American is extremely problematic.”
The growing list of states considering such legislation includes Indiana, Florida, Virginia and Alabama. The Bible Courts in West Virginia are the subject of a recently revived litigation by the Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. A proposal in North Dakota has been deeply defeated in the State Senate.
For more on this topic, see the Baptist Joint Committee’s resources on religion and public schools and their guide to religious freedom in public schools.