West Virginia Considering Bill to Require Bible History Elective for Schools

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West Virginia is considering a bill that if enacted would require public schools to offer an elective course on Bible history.

Known as House Bill 2073, the proposed legislation would amend §18-2-9 of the Code of West Virginia, titled "Required courses of instruction; violation and penalty," to include a class taught about the history of the Bible.

"The schools shall require regular courses of instruction by the completion of the 12th grade in the history of the United States, in civics, in the Constitution of the United States ... and making available, as an elective course of instruction, the history of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible," reads the amended text.

"The state board shall, with the advice of the state superintendent, prescribe the courses of study covering these subjects for the public schools."

Introduced by Democratic Delegate Ralph Rodighiero earlier this month, the bill was sent to the House Education Committee last week.

According to the West Virginia-based publication The Register-Herald, this is the third year in a row that Rodighiero has introduced this bill.

"Currently, there is no provision to require school systems to offer a course on the Bible," reported The Register-Herald.

"Rodighiero [told The Washington Free Beacon in 2015 that] if it did not make the agenda in the 2015 legislative session, he would 'try it again a year from now,' which he did in 2016 and again this year."

HB 2073 comes at a time when one West Virginia school district is facing a lawsuit over a Bible course that has been taught at their schools for decades.

Last month, the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit against Mercer County Schools for its "Bible in the Schools" course.

FFRF filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, Bluefield Division on behalf of an unnamed parent who is raising her child as an atheist.

"This program advances and endorses one religion, improperly entangles public schools in religious affairs, and violates the personal consciences of nonreligious and non-Christian parents and students," reads the lawsuit in part. 

"Forcing Jane Doe to choose between putting her child in a Bible study class or subjecting her child to the risk of ostracism by opting out of the program violates the rights of conscience of Jane and Jamie Doe and therefore their First Amendment rights."

For its part, the Mercer County Board of Education has hired the First Liberty Institute, of Plano, Texas, and O'Melveny & Myers LLP, of Los Angeles, California, to help defend the Bible class.

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