States across the U.S. are debating whether or not they should allow public schools to teach courses on the Bible, based on the idea that understanding the Christian scriptures is important in understanding the history and culture of America. Not surprisingly, these Bible course bills are being met with mixed responses by lawmakers.
The House Education Committee in New Hampshire on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly (17-0) to recommend the dismissal of a bill sponsored by Rep. Jerry Bergevin (R-Manchester) that would require all of the state's public high schools to offer an elective social studies course on the Bible, the Concord Monitor reports.
The text of the bill explains that one reason for teaching high school students about the Bible is that knowing biblical concepts "are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture, including literature, art, music, morals, oratory, and public policy." The bill says schools should offer a class either on the Old Testament, the New Testament or both.
Several of the committee's members say they won't support a bill that would force schools to adopt any sort of curriculum, according to the Concord Monitor.
Others said earlier this month that they would like to change the bill so that it isn't "requiring" schools to adopt a Bible course, but rather is "encouraging" them to do so. No members of the committee offered any amendments to the bill yesterday.
Despite the struggles of the New Hampshire bill, a similar bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Terri Proud (R-Tucson), is making its way through the Arizona state legislature with a great deal of support. On Tuesday, the Arizona state House voted 42-15 to allow the course, "The Bible and It's Influence On Western Culture," to be offered as an elective at public high schools, according to the Yuma Sun.
Before the bill was approved, however, legislators rejected a proposal from Rep. Ed Ableser (D-Tempe), who wanted to add the Book of Mormon and two other texts that are important to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the list of materials that classrooms can discuss.
"I have a young girl and at some point she will be enrolling in schools across Arizona," Ableser said, according to the Yuma Sun. "And I hope someday she'll be able to take classes, not only on the Bible and the importance of the Bible in Western culture but also about three other texts I greatly respect and honor."
The Arizona House Minority Leader, Rep. Chad Campbell (D-Phoenix), also believes lawmakers should not dictate to schools which religions they decide to teach about.
Finn Laursen, executive director of Christian Educators Association International (CEAI), told The Christian Post on Wednesday that it is "foolishness" to give equal attention to other religious texts in schools.
"That's foolishness, because the other faiths did not have the impact on American culture that Christianity and the Bible had. Should some of the other faiths be studied? Absolutely. You need a well-rounded education, but you can't equate some of the other 'holy books,' if you will, to the impact of the Bible," said Laursen.
The CEAI is a nonprofit organization based in Westlake, Ohio, that serves as a professional association for Christians who feel called to work in public schools.
Laursen said there is a movement today of people who are "sanitizing" public school curricula under the belief that secular institutions shouldn't even discuss religion. The problem with that, he said, is a true and realistic look at America's history reveals a nation that was founded on a Christian worldview and is still very much so affected by it today.
"We need to, across the nation, stop being paranoid of looking at our religious history and the heritage of this nation, and unfortunately that has happened in many districts," he noted. "And I think we just need to relax, take an honest look, and let's not be religious-phobic."