The Arkansas public school district may be able to teach Bible elective courses if the new bill passes Arkansas State Education Committee approval. Arkansas State Representative Danny Altus has proposed a new bill that would allow the teaching of elective courses for academic study purposes.
The new bill also states that the State Board of Education shall allow for an elective academic study of the Bible courses that consist of "a nonsectarian, nonreligious academic study of the Bible and its influence on literature, art, music, culture, and politics to be offered to students in public school districts, if the academic study of the Bible course meets the standards listed in this section."
The proposed bill states that personnel shall not be assigned to teach the course based on any religious test; profession of faith or lack of faith; prior or present religious affiliation or lack of affiliation; or criteria involving particular beliefs or lack of beliefs about the Bible.
In 2011, a similar bill was proposed by Altus and passed in the House of Representatives but did not make it past the state education committee. The new version, House Bill 1017, would require a State of Arkansas licensed personnel to teach from a strictly academic standpoint. This has caused some controversy among Bible-believing Christians due to its strictly academic approach.
If the bill passes, Arkansas would not be the first state to implement Bible courses. In the 2009-2010 school year, over 350 schools in 43 states implemented Bible courses that use both a textbook and a Bible translation of the students' choice. "Our textbook aims for a straight forward reporting of what the Bible says. There is no content in our textbook that is intended to either promote or undermine faith," says Bible Literacy Project Chairman Chuck Stetson.
Many of those courses are controversial with many Christians due to content having been reviewed by religious and legal scholars from evangelical, mainstream Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox and Jewish communities, as well as parents. Many Christians view the courses as a way to only teach the Bible from a strictly academic perspective.
The new proposed bill for the Bible to be taught in Arkansas schools states that its method is to evaluate textbooks for an academic study of the Bible course; and to teach an academic study of the Bible course.
Altus biography list him as an active Christian Business Men's Committee Member as well as a deacon at First Baptist Church. However, according to his proposed bill, the course has to be taught in an objective and non-devotional manner with no attempt made to indoctrinate students as to either the truth or falsity of the biblical materials or texts from other religious or cultural tradition, according to the proposed bill. The teaching also cannot disparage or encourage a commitment to a set of religious beliefs, which has caused many Christians to question the motive of the Bible elective course being offered.