Posts Tagged ‘national council on bible curriculum in public schools’

Ah, Chuck Norris

May 27, 2008

This is pretty funny, but I must first apologize for being fixated on the NCBCPS for the moment.

They have an article written by Chuck Norris on the need for Bible courses in US public schools. If the NCBCPS’s motivations are suspect, Chuck Norris’ are openly unconstitutional. Consider this quote, referring to a proposed law in Texas that would mandate Bible education.

The Texas Freedom Network, or TFN, is one of them – a self-admitted adversary of any biblically conservative movement, calling themselves “a mainstream voice to counter the religious right.” The TFN, for example, is requesting five unnecessary changes to the Texas bill, which is intended to assure students are taught this classic text: (emphasis mine)

Mandate that teachers have appropriate academic qualifications and sufficient training on legal and constitutional issues surrounding instruction about the Bible in public schools.

Require rigorous, scholarly reviewed textbooks and other curriculum materials for all courses.

Include strong and specific language that protects the religious freedom of students and their families by barring the use of Bible classes to evangelize or promote personal religious perspectives.

Require the Texas Education Agency to regularly monitor and report on the content of public school Bible courses to ensure that they are academically and legally appropriate.

Continue to allow districts the option to offer – or not offer – such courses.

Let me get this straight. Requiring that teachers be qualified to teach the material is unnecessary? Scholarly reviewed textbooks are unnecessary? Barring evangelism in a public school course is unnecessary?

Chuck Norris clearly has little regard for religious freedom, if his goal is to use the Bible to indoctrinate American students. Further, the NCBCPS’s posting of his article can only be taken as an endorsement of his views. I predict that, for this reason, the Craig County School Board’s Bible course, authored by the NCBCPS, will not withstand scrutiny.


Is this legal?

May 27, 2008

That’s the title of a page within the website of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools. This organization is responsible for producing and supporting Bible study curricula for American public schools. The mission statement assures that the curricula are perfectly objective and neutral, and thus in line with the requirements of secular government. I have my doubts, and I’ll demonstrate the source of them.

On the one hand, the page titled Is This Legal? ends with this quote:

It might be well said that one’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization. It certainly may be said that the Bible is worthy of study for its literacy and historic qualities. Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment.

School District of Abington Township v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203,225 (1963)

This is a perfectly admirable quote, and nothing within it betrays an intention to subvert the Establishment Clause. However, the page begins with these words:

There has been a great social regression since the Bible was removed from our schools. We need to refer to the original documents that inspired Americanism and our religious heritage.

These words are manifestly untrue. The US has suffered no such “social regression” (whatever that might mean), and the foundation document of the United States is not the Bible, but the Constitution. The Constitution is the defining statement of Americanism (whatever that might mean), and it carries no mention of God, and mentions religion only to guarantee the free practice (or nonpractice) thereof. If the goal of the NCBCPS is to rewrite history so as to name the Bible the foundation of US culture and religion (ignoring the dozens of other faiths followed by Americans, and those who follow none), then they are no better than the “America was founded as a Christian nation” crowd.

Should US public schools have Bible classes?

May 27, 2008

A course that treats objectively the history and significance of the Bible would be a wonderful idea, and to the best of my knowledge many such classes exist in US public schools.  Whatever religion we follow, much of the cultural references we share come from the Bible, and an understanding of it is vital to an understanding of Western civilization in general.

 There is a fine line to walk, however. Any treatment of the Bible in a public school course must be completely neutral. It must not endorse any part of the Bible as true, particularly not any part that pertains to a statement of religious faith or dogma. The Bible must remain squarely on the sectarian side of Thomas Jefferson’s wall, and teachers in public classrooms must reveal it only through windows of objectivity.

This standard has not always been met. In 2005, the Ector County School Board instituted a course called “The Bible in History and Literature.” The course was not objective, in that it favored the King James Version of the Bible over the countless others used by other denominations, and promoted a particular religious viewpoint. The ACLU challenged the curriculum, and it was overturned in March.

A similar case is brewing in Virginia. The Craig County School Board has approved the implementation of a Bible studies course, one produce by the same organization as that which published the curriculum struck down in the Texas case. As the Texas curriculum was found to violate the establishment clause, the ACLU has determined to investigate the new Virginia course.

The organization responsible for both curricula (which may prove to be the same) is the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools. Their mission statement seems innocuous enough, but the ruling in the Texas case demonstrates the need for caution.

There’s no denying the importance of the Bible to Western culture. It forms a large part of the backbone of our shared culture, of the idioms we use in our speech, even of the legends that shape our understanding of our place in the universe (though I feel that last is changing.) For all these reasons an objective Bible Studies course would be a welcome addition to a public school. But his objectivity must be maintained with a restless diligence. The alternative is the loss of church and state separation, and ultimately the loss of freedom of religion.