First Amendment topicsAbout the First Amendment
News Story
print this   Print

West Texas school board votes to add Bible class

By The Associated Press

ODESSA, Texas — The school board in this West Texas town has voted unanimously to add a Bible class to its high school curriculum.

Hundreds of people, most of them supporters of the proposal, packed the board meeting last night. More than 6,000 Odessa residents had signed a petition supporting the class.

Some residents, however, said the school board acted too quickly. Others said they feared a constitutional fight.

Barring any hurdles, the class should be added to the curriculum in fall 2006 and taught as a history or literature course. The school board still must develop a curriculum, which board member Floy Hinson said should be open for public review.

The board had heard a presentation in March from Mike Johnson, a representative of the Greensboro, N.C.-based National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, who said that coursework designed by that organization is not about proselytizing or preaching.

But People for the American Way and the American Civil Liberties Union have criticized the council, saying its materials promote religion.

Johnson said students in the elective class would learn such things as the geography of the Middle East and the influence of the Bible on history and culture.

"How can students understand Leonardo da Vinci's 'Last Supper' or Handel's 'Messiah' if they don't understand the reference from which they came?" Johnson said. The group's Web site says its curriculum has received backing in 292 school districts in 35 states.

Charles C. Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center in Arlington, Va., said, “Bible electives are a good idea, but only if they are taught in ways that are constitutionally and educationally sound."

Haynes told the First Amendment Center Online: "If Odessa schools adopt the National Council approach, they’ll trigger a fight. But if they use materials that are balanced and objective — and train teachers to use them, then the course could be a valuable addition to the curriculum.”

In Frankenmuth, Mich., a similar proposal led to a yearlong controversy before the school board voted in January not to offer such a course.


School board in Michigan decides against Bible class

'Bible As Literature and History' curriculum declared too close to religion, too far from history. 01.11.05

Virginia district allows Bible classes to continue

Staunton School Board votes 5-1 to conduct review of released-time program to determine if needs of both students going to classes and those who opt out are being met. 02.16.05

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

Should a good education include the ‘Good Book’?
By Charles C. Haynes Knowing the Bible helps students understand religion, literature, history, art and more — and there are constitutional ways to teach it in public schools. 05.01.05

The Bible and Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide

Bible in school

News summary page
View the latest news stories throughout the First Amendment Center Online.

Last system update: Friday, April 23, 2010 | 18:48:17
About this site
About the First Amendment
About the First Amendment Center
How to contribute
First Amendment programs
State of the First Amendment

Religious liberty in public schools
First Reports
Supreme Court
First Amendment publications
First Amendment Center history
Freedom Sings™
First Amendment

Congressional Research Service reports
Guest editorials
FOI material
The First Amendment

Lesson plans
Contact us
Privacy statement
Related links