Alabama has become the first state to approve a Bible textbook for statewide adoption, makers of "The Bible and Its Influence" announced Monday.
The Bible Literacy Project, an interfaith group that released the book in September 2005, said the decision by the Alabama State Board of Education last Wednesday also makes "The Bible and Its Influence" the first textbook for academic study of the Bible to be adopted statewide.
"This is major news in the field of education," stated Bible Literacy Project Chairman Chuck Stetson. "While academic study of the Bible is legal in all 50 states, this decision means that any school in the state of Alabama can purchase our textbook with state-provided funds until 2013."
According to standards set forth by the Alabama School Board, the approval declares the textbook, which is intended for use in high schools, as "sufficient to be used as the sole textbook/program for a particular grade or course and meet[s] 80% or more of the standards outlined in the state course of study and/or is sufficient to be used as the sole textbook for an elective course."
Stetson reported that 543 high schools in Alabama will soon receive a list of approved curricula.
Currently, there are 163 high schools in 35 states that have adopted the 387-page, full-color textbook, which covers the Old Testament and New Testament, for semester-long or full-year courses.
A spokeswoman for the Bible Literacy Group, Sheila Weber, told The Christian Post Wednesday that the textbook is also undergoing consideration for statewide adoption in other states but was unable to disclose which. She did, however, note that only 22 states in the nation have a system of statewide adoption.
Alabama's approval is expected to have a major impact on other states considering the textbook, added Stetson.
"The Bible and Its Influence" is expected to survive any legal challenges as it was created to satisfy the consensus legal standards presented in "The Bible and Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide," endorsed by 21 national organizations including National Association of Evangelicals, National Education Association, and American Jewish Congress. It is meant to be used alongside a Bible of the student's choice.
Other key safeguards were implemented so a course based on the textbook could be used in an elective in literature or social studies.
In addition to a 488-page wraparound teacher's edition and detailed lesson plans that accompany the textbook, the Bible Literacy Project also provides the only university-based teacher training on how the teach the Bible in public schools, available online for credit.
Before the textbook was made available, it passed the review of 40 scholars from multiple faith groups, including Evangelical, Catholic, mainline Protestant, Orthodox, and Jewish.
Weber emphasized that the textbook is intended to be "academic" and "non-devotional."
The textbook divides the Bible into core themes and shows how each theme or period in the Bible influenced artists, musicians, poets, politicians, and leaders throughout history. It has a particular emphasis on relating the Bible influence on American figures.