Elective courses in public schools that teach the Bible and its historical implications came under attack yesterday in Texas. This time, however, the opposition came in the form of "far left" Christians who said the courses promote a fundamentalist view and violate religious freedom.
The Texas Freedom Network, which includes clergy of several faiths, complained that an elective Bible Course offered by the Greensboro, N.C-based National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools is full of errors.
When taught with credible materials and from a nonsectarian perspective, such courses are an appropriate and even laudable way to help students learn about history and literature, the group stated. However the countrys most aggressively marketed - and perhaps most widely used - Bible curriculum fails on both counts.
The National Council on Bible Curriculum offers its elective course in high schools and junior highs by more than 300 school districts in 37 states.
The President of the Freedom Network, Kathy Miller, said her group looked at the course after the Odessa school board voted in April to offer the class. According to the Associated Press, it asked Southern Methodist University biblical scholar Mark A. Chancey to review the curriculum.
Chancey, who spoke at a press conference yesterday, said he found that the course characterizes the Bible as inspired by God and that Jesus is referred to as fulfilling Old Testament prophecy. He also said the court bases scientific discussions on biblical accounts of creation, uses archaeological findings as erroneously used to support claims of the Bibles historical accuracy, and suggests the Bible should be considered the nations founding document.
"No public school student should have to have a particular religious belief forced upon them," the Rev. Ragan Courtney, pastor of The Sanctuary, a Baptist congregation in Austin, said at a news conference held by Texas Freedom Network.
However, producers of the class dismissed the charges from what they called a far left organization trying to censor the study of a historical text.
"They are actually quite fearful of academic freedom, and of local schools deciding for themselves what elective courses to offer their citizens," Elizabeth Ridenour, president of the Bible class group, said in a statement.
Currently some 52 Texas school districts offer the class. More than 6,000 people signed the petition to support the elective course before it was approved in April in Odessa.