The Bible in Public Schools

On Thursday, June 29, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin signed into law HB 128, An Act Relating to Bible Literacy Courses in the Public Schools.  Here is the text of the bill thanks for Messiah College History Professor John Fea:

Create a new section of KRS Chapter 156 to require the Kentucky Board of Education to promulgate administrative regulations to establish an elective social studies course on the Hebrew Scriptures, Old Testament of the Bible, the New Testament, or a combination of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament of the Bible; require that the course provide to students knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture, including literature, art, music, mores, oratory, and public policy; permit students to use various translations of the Bible for the course; amend KRS 158.197 to permit a school council to offer an elective social studies course on the Hebrew Scriptures, Old Testament of the Bible, the New Testament, or a combination of the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament of the Bible.

Dr. Fea makes a few comments on the bill at his excellent blog, The Way of Improvement Leads Home, so I will not repeat what he has to say, but I will add a few of my thoughts.

  1. I have no issue with the Bible being taught in public schools as long as it is part of a larger course on literature but not as a bible study per se. Reading the Bible as literature is excellent, and it fits in the vast scope of a literature course. Say what you will, the Bible is great literature.
  2. If you are going to teach the Christian Bible, in the context of American history, then one must also include the holy texts of the other religions of America including the Native Americans. One of the sponsors of the bill continues the tale that America was founded as a Christian nation and this is far from the truth but fits with a particular narrative that is being pushed forward. Sure, the founders were mostly Christians but there is no reference to God in the Constitution, and it was made clear that there was to be no state sponsored religion.

There is nothing new here other than the continued political point of pushing the Christians scriptures on everyone.  The Bible has been, and always will be used as a political tool, on all ideological sides, and this is what we see here with this latest bill signing.