Bible Class Bill is Attempt to Let Public Schools Teach the Bible is True, Church-State Separation Advocacy Group Claims

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Americans United for Separation of Church and State argued that an Oklahoma bill that would protect school districts with Bible courses from legal action attempts to place a "loophole" in the law that would let public schools teach that the Bible is true.

Americans United expressed its opposition to Senate Bill 48 due to their concern that it would allow for Bible courses that advocate Christianity. Writing for the Americans United blog "Wall of Separation" on Wednesday, Sarah Jones argued that SB 48 was also unnecessary given current law.

"It's also already legal for public schools to offer truly objective elective courses on the Bible or religion," wrote Jones.

"And if Loveless' bill is an attempt to create a loophole for public schools to teach sectarian material, it's doomed to fail. It's well-established by the courts that as arms of our secular government, public schools are and must remain religiously neutral."

Jones tied her concerns to Mustang School District of Oklahoma, who had approved a Bible elective course championed by Hobby Lobby Inc. President Steve Green.

The School District eventually dropped the course because of concerns expressed by Americans United over its purported sectarian content.

"The class didn't get pulled simply because it was about the Bible; it got pulled because it taught students that the Bible is true, and that's a sermon, not a public school lesson," continued Jones.

Senate Bill 48 will be officially introduced on the first Monday in February by State Senator Kyle Loveless and is expected to go into first reading on the same date.

"A school district and its employees and agents shall incur no liability as a result of providing an elective course in the objective study of religion or the Bible," reads SB 48.

In an interview with local media, Loveless explained that his bill came in response to Americans United's legal efforts against the Hobby Lobby president's proposed course.

"[Many students] were extremely disappointed in having the class cancelled," said Loveless to the Bartlesville Examiner Enterprise.

"I don't see anything wrong [with a provision] that gives local school districts the ability to study the historical aspects of the Bible. That's my reasoning for the bill."

Loveless added that his proposal is "not a forced class and this would not be a 'Sunday School' type course. We are not endorsing one religion over the other."

This is not the first time that the Oklahoma Legislature has considered a measure regarding Bible courses in their public schools.

In 2010 a bill was introduced to allow for elective courses in the Bible, which was sponsored by State Senator Tom Ivester and House Representative Todd Russ.

Known as Senate Bill 1338, the bill garnered much support from both houses of the Oklahoma legislature, but was withdrawn by its sponsors in April 2010 following the amending process.

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