Texas parents challenge unconstitutional Bible lesson in public schools


ACLU and PFAWF File Lawsuit Against Ector County School Board for Illicit Promotion of Religion

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ODESSA, TX – The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Texas, People For the American Way Foundation, and law firm Jenner & Block, LLP filed a federal lawsuit today in the Western District of Texas in names of eight parents who say the Bible course offered in their local high schools violates their religious freedom by promoting particular religious beliefs to children in their community. Some of the parents have children who have graduated from these high schools and others have children who will soon be entering them. The case was filed against the Ector County Independent School District Board of Trustees and eight of its members and officers.

“Parents, not public schools, should teach children about religious beliefs,” said Dr. T. Jeremy Gunn, director of the ACLU’s Freedom of Religion and Belief Program. “Governments and public schools have no business deciding which religious beliefs are true and then using public schools to proselytize among children.”

In December 2005, the Ector County School Board voted to adopt a Bible course created by a private organization called the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBCPS). The elective course, titled The Bible in History and Literature, is now taught at two high schools in Odessa, Texas – Permian High School and Odessa High School. Rather than objectively teaching the Bible, the course promotes religion in general as well as a particular religious viewpoint that is not shared by Jews, Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and many Protestants.

“It is important for students to be educated about religion and the role that believers have played in our history, but the Bible course taught in Odessa gets a grade of F for non-compliance with the Constitution. The course is not designed to teach religion – it’s designed to promote religion, and a very particular religious viewpoint at that,” said Judith E. Schaeffer, legal director of People For the American Way Foundation. “While public schools can teaching the Bible to students, the Odessa Bible Course introduces students to the Bible from a specific sectarian perspective, and this is a clear violation of the First Amendment.”

Doug Hildebrand, one of the parents who filed the lawsuit and an elder and ordained deacon at a local Presbyterian church, said, “Religion is very important in my family and we are very involved in our religious community. But public schools are not a place for religious indoctrination that promotes certain beliefs that not all children in the school share. Looks like a church has invaded our school system – and it’s not my church.

“This course is not about educating students. It’s about proselytizing one set of religious beliefs to the exclusion of others,” said Daniel Mach, director of litigation for the ACLU’s freedom program. of religion and belief. “Students who do not share these beliefs should not be treated as outsiders by their own schools.”

The Bible Course uses the King James Version as its primary textbook, which is not the Bible of choice for a wide range of Christian denominations, nor for members of the Jewish faith. She asks students to give “true” or “false” answers to questions about religious faith. While appropriate for Sunday School, the public school course unconstitutionally uses the Bible to inculcate lessons in religious life, asking students to memorize Bible passages and then discuss how they affected their lives, said the group that filed the lawsuits. The course also presents an unbalanced view of American history that promotes specific religious beliefs that conflict with objective scientific standards.

“This course is not taught from an objective perspective, as required by the Constitution. There are many ways to constitutionally teach children about religion and its place in society, history and literature. But, despite its misleading name, this class is essentially a Sunday school class within the walls of a public school,” said Lisa Graybill, legal director for the ACLU of Texas.

The NCBCPS course has been deeply criticized by Bible scholars for its lack of precision, ignoring scientific research, and biased promotion of a particular religious interpretation of the Bible. Although the NCBCPS defends its agenda as constitutional, its own website reveals a different agenda, urging people to contact the NCBCPS as “the first step in bringing God back to your public school.”

The lawsuit asks that the Ector County School Board be ordered to refrain from teaching the Bible course or any similar course that would unconstitutionally promote religion in general and particular religious beliefs in particular.

A copy of the complaint is available online at:

To learn more about the case, visit: www.aclu.org/bibleinpublicschools


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