Tenn. 'Bible in Schools' Act Awaits Approval

Public school students in Tennessee may soon have the option of taking non-denominational, elective courses on the Bible.

A bill, which is currently waiting for the governor's signature, coasted easily through the state legislature following a series of unanimous votes on the house floor.

Democratic Sen. Roy Herron, the bill's sponsor, argues that the bill is necessary to give greater biblical literacy and understanding of the crucial importance of the Bible to students.

"I want students to study the greatest and most popular book in history," Herron told CNN News.

"I want young people to understand how the Bible has enormously impacted literature, art, music, culture, history and politics. A Bible course will help students understand our culture and our highest and best values," he added.

While the bill raises concerns among opponents that the measure would throw open school doors to proselytizing and breach the separation of church and state, Herron argues that the bill is constitutional.

"Our government school teachers cannot constitutionally preach the Bible, but they can teach the Bible," Herron said.

Herron emphasized that the measure would not force schools throughout the state to offer Bible classes. Instead, the bill would protect schools that already offer Bible classes, while making the classes an option for schools that wish to participate.

Currently, 78 of Tennessee's 95 counties feature elective courses on the Bible in their schools.

"There are school systems all over the state that are afraid to offer a course about the Bible because they're afraid of being sued," Herron said.

"But the First Amendment does not require students to leave their Bibles at home, and the First Amendment does not require hostility to the Bible or faith," he concluded.

Public school students in over 35 states currently have the option of enrolling in non-denominational biblical literacy classes, according to the Bible Literacy Project.