The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) investigating a “Bible in the Schools” program established in Mercer County, W. Va., as to whether the school system is violating the separation of church and state.
While no legal action has been taken as of yet, the organization, infamous for filing lawsuits against schools who purportedly walk a fine line in religious matters, is seeking more information from the county about the program in question.
This is not the first time the program has come under scrutiny, Tom Chaffins, the Supervisor of Secondary Education, told West Virginia News Station.
“They want to know how we go about getting our teachers, what we use in the classrooms, materials we use [and] how it’s funded, those kinds of things.”
Chaffins said she is not worried about the ACLU investigation, because the Bible program is taught under the strict guidelines given by the Attorney General of West Virginia. Chaffins remains confident that the school is not violating the separation of church and state.
Greg Prudich, president of the Mercer County Board of Education, told Saturday’s Daily Telegraph that the school board has provided information about the program to the ACLU when requested.
Like Chaffins, Prudich believes the classes are being taught according to the constitutional guidelines.
The program, operated by the Mercer County Public Schools, is not a church-operated program.
It is an elective course offered at 16 of the Mercer County schools including those in Bluefield, Princeton, and outlying schools. It has been a part of the county’s curriculum for more than 75 years and teaches students objectively about the literary and historical qualities of the Bible.
“Literature contains so many biblical allusions that a biblical ignorance cripples any meaningful literary study,” the county wrote on their website.
No doctrinal differences are dealt with in the schools, and when asked by children, instructors refer them to their parents.
In a 1963 ruling regarding prayer in the public schools, the Supreme Court Justice Clark stated, “It certainly may be said that the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities. Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment.”
The ruling by the Supreme Court has never been reversed and no court has ruled against the teaching of the Bible as history and literature, Mercer County penned.
“The impact of the Bible on the American culture merits for this book far greater attention than is merited by any other book. To cut our children off from the Bible is to cut them off from their cultural roots. This cannot be said of any other book.”
Though the teaching of the Bible is legal, the program is not financed by the Board of Education, because of a lack in funds.
Community funding of the course has sustained the program until now. In August, a “Bible Benefit Ride” by motorcycle riders helped raise money for the program.
“Bible in the Schools” is a nonprofit organization and all donations are tax deductible. Anyone can donate to the program.
“The Bible forms the lowest stratum in the teaching of literature. It should be taught so early and so thoroughly that it sinks straight to the bottom of the mind, where everything that comes along later can settle on it,” Mercer County quoted Northrop Frye, the famous literary critic of the 20th century.