Written by Don Byrd
School officials in Mercer County, West Virginia, last week asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a Bible lesson offered to public school students during the daytime. education. The class is voluntary, they say, and is funded separately. But as The Washington Post report suggestsit does not solve all the problems between the Church and the State.
Here is an exerpt :
Elizabeth Deal, who describes herself as an agnostic, is one of the plaintiffs in the case. Her daughter attended nearby Bluefield Primary School, but Deal kept her out of Bible class. Although the course was optional, Deal said there were no alternative lessons or activities for those who opted out. Her daughter was told to sit in the computer lab for that half hour and read a book.
Bypassing the class made her vulnerable to bullying. Deal said other students told her daughter she was going to hell. A student once saw her daughter reading a “Harry Potter” novel and told her, according to the mother, “You don’t need to read this. You must read the Bible.
As former Mercer County Board member Lynne White explained in a West Virginia Gazette column exposing five “lies” told to justify the program, “it’s hard to imagine a first-grader not feeling left out when her classmates listen to Bible stories, play games to name books and Bible verses and win prizes while she is sent to another class for extra math help.
Even beyond the obvious threat of ostracizing students who withdraw, public school programs like this are especially problematic for elementary school students, who are unlikely to understand the distinction between studying the Bible for its historical significance and literature and study it as a sacred text.
This potential confusion sounds great to some Bible advocates in schools. The Post article quotes a local pastor as saying, “Whenever the word of God can be proclaimed, it is beneficial and a good thing. But proclaiming the word of God is not the proper domain of the public school system. In effect, it abrogates their responsibility to protect the religious liberty interests of all students and parents in the district.