The Bible history and literature will be taught in Texas public schools
The Bible’s history and literature will be required to be taught in public schools in Texas under a new law that has been clarified by the state attorney general to mean exactly what it says.
“This is a huge victory for the people of Texas and, I think, for people across the country for academic freedom,” said Jonathan Saenz, a lawyer for Liberty Legal. “There are 1,300 references to the Bible in the works of Shakespeare alone. Over 60 percent of the allusions studied in [advanced placement] English come from the Bible. Students are going to be better academically and culturally when they hear about the Bible.”
The decision is a result of work by the state legislature as well as an opinion from Greg Abbott, the state’s attorney general, in a letter to Education Commissioner Robert Scott. House Bill 1287 was approved by state lawmakers in the spring of 2008, and it was signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry. It states all school districts must offer the course as an elective at the high school level by the 2009-2010 school year.
Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, the author of the plan, said if 15 or more students express interest in the course, districts must provide it.
“A lot of schools don’t know they can have the course, and this bill notifies them that the Supreme Court ruled school districts can offer it,” Chisum said earlier in advocating for the plan. “School districts should know they can offer the course because it better prepares students for college literature and history classes.”
Kevin Franck, of the People for the American Way, told the San Antonio newspaper his group isn’t necessarily opposed to the plan, but will be watching its implementation.
And Chisum said the legislature specifically addressed the Bible, not the Quran or any other religious writing, because “the Bible as a text … has historical and literary value.”
“It can’t go off into other religious philosophies because then it would be teaching religion, when the course is meant to teach literature,” he said.
Saenz told WND the actual curriculum – whether schools use only the Bible or another text – is left up to the local school district boards.
“Students more and more have been demanding the courses,” he said. “The problem has been that school districts have been threatened [by activists] for offering the courses.
“Now they’ve got the state board of education’s clear guidelines, and support from the attorney general,” he said.
He said his organization has been involved in the adoption of the law from its beginning. Counting members of both houses in the legislature, the vote in Texas was 167-3 for the plan.
Liberty Legal, a group committed to defending religious freedoms and First Amendment rights, had been asked to submit a brief on the issue of requiring schools to teach the Bible.
Saenz told WND the requirement allows such education to be either in a regular class or a separate class.
He noted that in one school district close to Dallas, already 160 students have signed up for the class.
Among the subjects that must now be taught in Texas are English, math, science, social students, health, physical education, fine arts, economics, technology and “religious literature, including the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and New Testament.”
“A school district must, of course, offer instruction in the subject matter … ‘as required curriculum,'” said the attorney general’s opinion, confirming for state education officials the legislature’s intent. “The Legislature did not mandate that this curriculum instruction be provided in independent courses.’
One group, the Greensboro, N.C.-based National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, promotes its curriculum as the only one that uses the Bible as its primary textbook. Supporters include the conservative American Family Association, Eagle Forum and Plano-based Liberty Legal.
Council President Elizabeth Ridenour said the group’s material already is being used in 54 Texas school districts. There also are other curriculums that use their own textbooks.