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Georgia OKs Bible classes, Ten Commandments

By The Associated Press
04.21.06

ATLANTA — Georgia became what is believed to be the first state to offer government-sanctioned elective classes on the Bible, with Gov. Sonny Perdue signing a bill into law yesterday.

The governor also signed a bill permitting the display of the Ten Commandments at courthouses, an issue that has raised thorny constitutional questions.

Critics say the measures blur the line between church and state. National civil rights groups say they want to see how the laws are implemented before deciding whether to challenge them in court.

The Bible is already incorporated into classes in Georgia and other states, and some local school districts have passed measures permitting classes devoted solely to the Bible. But education analysts say the law in Georgia is the first in which a state government has endorsed such courses.

The new law allows elective classes on the Bible to be taught to high school students. Local school systems will decide whether to teach the courses.

The state Education Department has until next February to craft curriculums. The law requires that the courses be taught "in an objective and nondevotional manner with no attempt made to indoctrinate students."

The state's new Ten Commandments law was prompted by controversy over the posting of the commandments at the Barrow County Courthouse. A federal judge ordered the display removed last July.

Backers of the law made clear they were trying to craft a statute that would survive any constitutional challenges.

In a split decision last June, the U.S. Supreme Court declared exhibits of the Ten Commandments constitutional if their main purpose was to honor the nation's legal, rather than religious, traditions, and if they didn't promote one religious sect over another.

Both bills passed the state Legislature by comfortable margins.


Update
Ga. schools cautious on state-funded Bible classes
Amid questions about government endorsement of religion, only a handful of state's 180 school districts have agreed to offer the elective classes so far. 05.03.07

Previous
Ga. Legislature approves school Bible classes
Governor expected to sign measure that would let public high schools teach 'nondevotional' Bible classes. 03.29.06

Related

Georgia courthouse can't display commandments

District judge rules against Barrow County, but notes county officials, employees may still display Ten Commandments on their persons, in their offices. 07.20.05

Most Bible courses in Texas schools not academic, study finds
Texas Freedom Network report says most school districts' electives are openly devotional, promoting one faith, usually Protestant, over others. 09.14.06

Chattanooga schools offer privately funded Bible electives
Classes don't push 'theological or doctrinal viewpoint,' says director of Bible in the Schools. 12.24.06

Playing politics with the Bible: Coming to a school near you?
By Charles C. Haynes Public schools need to teach about the Bible, but not a prescribed, narrow interpretation. 04.16.06

Americans don’t know much about religion, but does it matter?
By Charles C. Haynes Religious literacy matters because religion matters — it plays a central role in shaping events at home and abroad. 03.18.07

Bible showdown in Odessa could have Texas-sized impact
By Charles C. Haynes When school officials try to turn a classroom into a church, sometimes it takes a judge to draw the First Amendment line. 05.27.07

Bible in school
Ten Commandments, other displays & mottos

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