Two Democratic leaders of Alabama’s House of Representatives introduced legislation that would authorize local boards of education to offer a course in Bible literacy as an elective in grades 10-12.

The bill, expected to pass both legislative chambers without opposition, would make Alabama the first state to offer a Bible curriculum in a public education setting.

The legislation, introduced by Speaker Seth Hammett and Majority Leader Ken Guin, refers to use of a course called “The Bible and Its Influence,” with an accompanying textbook authored by Cullen Schippe and Chuck Stetson and published by the Bible Literacy Project.

The text does not approach the Bible as a devotional study but as an academic exercise, examining its influence on Western civilization, including literature, art, history and public policy.

The textbook, released earlier this year, has been praised by educators, as well as Christian and Jewish leaders, for its depth of research, accuracy and fairness.

Contributing author Marc Stern, general counsel for the American Jewish Congress, said the text “will serve as an excellent and even-handed introduction to the Bible.”

Leland Ryken, professor of English at Wheaton College in Illinois, Billy Graham’s alma mater, called the textbook “an undisputed triumph in scholarship and presentation. I learned something new on virtually every page.”

Majority Leader Guin, the author of the bill, said it’s imperative that children be “imparted with the scholastic knowledge of the Bible that is being lost between our generations.”

He pointed out that 98 percent of high school English teachers believe Bible literacy gives students a distinct educational advantage, and more than 60 percent of the allusions on the Advanced Placement English Literature exam have a biblical basis, but only 8 percent of American students in public schools report that their school offered an elective course on the Bible.

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