Can the Bible be taught in school?
- Kentucky’s Board of Education issued new standards for its Bible literacy course, an attempt to add uniformity to the class, which schools started teaching last year as an elective literature course.
- Differences in how schools and districts were teaching the class earned disapproval from the American Civil Liberties Union. Some were using material that appeared to come directly from Sunday schools, The Courier-Journal reported.
- Now classes will be aligned to state standards, although schools will be responsible for making sure educators follow them when teaching the class.
There’s a traditional line dividing religion and public education. While the history of religion is often taught within social studies classes, schools are not permitted to proselytize about a specific religion to students. Teach about the Bible as a work of literature? Yes. Teach about the Bible or any other religious text as a truth? Probably not.
Kentucky’s decision to teach the Bible as an elective literature class may not violate law, but for schools and districts that want to ensure they’re not circumventing a student’s constitutional rights, the ACLU has a valuable resource that addresses religion in public schools. Included are court cases, such as the 1962 Engel v. Vitale where the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prayer, sponsored by public schools, did violate the First Amendment.
In May 2018, the ACLU fought and won a ruling from the U.S. District Court that decided a Louisiana school district had to stop “school-sponsored Christian prayer, proselytizing, and other religious rituals,” in the case Cole V. Webster Parish School Board.
Districts and schools that want to consider adding religious materials to their curriculum should dive deeply into legal rulings and precedents before stepping into those waters.