The Bible is back. Just this year, five states – Texas, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Oklahoma – have passed laws promoting academic study of the Bible in public schools.
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution in late January declaring 2012 "The Year of the Bible," and this month in South Dakota the legislature passed a resolution urging academic study of the Bible.
In light of these decisions, the Bible Literacy Project is on a mission to get its curriculum, The Bible and Its Influence, into public school classrooms. So far, it has been implemented in schools in 43 of the 50 states.
Of the seven remaining states – Delaware, Iowa, Montana, Nevada, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wyoming – the BLP is offering a free set of textbooks to the first public school in each of those states ready to teach the course.
The Bible is the foundational text for the course, but there is also a student edition book which covers the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation and highlights the Bible's influence on culture, art, and academics.
BLP says the curriculum and the class are constitutionally acceptable. Along with the First Amendment Center, the BLP co-published The Bible and Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide that established guidelines for teaching about the Bible in public schools.
Sarah Jenislawski, executive director for BLP, told The Christian Post that the main purpose of the course is biblical and cultural literacy.
She said the Bible has had "such a big impact on so many parts of our culture," and there are many references in literature that students won't be able to follow if they are biblically illiterate.
Jenislawski mentioned that sometimes there are concerns over the implementation of the curriculum. But once parents see the textbook and realize it's a course about biblical and cultural literacy, rather than a way to change a child's belief system, they are more comfortable with it.
In late January, the South Dakota legislature approved resolution HRC 1004, which supports the academic study of the Bible in public schools.
State Rep. Steve Hickey, the resolution's chief sponsor, said he hoped the courses would make students aware of the Bible's immense cultural influence. "I have a concern that we're raising a generation of kids who can't quote anything beyond Sponge Bob," Hickey said.
While teaching about the Bible is legal nationwide, these states have used legislation to raise public awareness and to promote statewide implementation of these courses.
In eight states, more than 5 percent of public schools are using this textbook, with Georgia leading the way with 12.6 percent of its schools implementing the curriculum.
Chuck Stetson, the BLP's CEO, said in a released statement, "Our track record of successful implementation and strong community support has given larger districts confidence that our materials meet the educational needs of their diverse student populations. When one school implements the course, we quickly make contact with neighboring schools who want to try it too."
The Bible Literacy Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit endeavor to encourage the academic study of the Bible in public schools. The Bible and Its Influence, is designed for high school students in grades 9-12, and can be taught as an English, social studies, or humanities elective.