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Deputy State Superintendent of Education Eddie Johnson speaks to the state Senate Education Committee in Montgomery on Wednesday. Behind Johnson is Rep. Blaine Galliher, R-Gadsden, sponsor of the bill to designate a Christian Heritage Week in Alabama's public schools.
AP photo by Jamie Martin
Deputy State Superintendent of Education Eddie Johnson speaks to the state Senate Education Committee in Montgomery on Wednesday. Behind Johnson is Rep. Blaine Galliher, R-Gadsden, sponsor of the bill to designate a Christian Heritage Week in Alabama's public schools.

Christian Heritage legislation stalls in Senate group

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Legislation to create Christian Heritage Week in Alabama's public schools and dedicate 21/2 hours to instruction on the topic stalled in a Senate committee Wednesday after members questioned if it would open up weeks focusing on other faiths.

"We could have Judaism Heritage Week and Muslim Heritage Week. Then you could have Catholic Heritage Week," committee Chairman Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile, said.

After discussing the legislation, the committee voted without dissent to delay action on it and told the sponsors that it needs more work if it is going to pass.

State Rep. Blaine Galliher, R-Rainbow City, and Sen. Zeb Little, D-Cullman, developed the bill with Eric Johnston, president the Birmingham-based Southeast Law Institute, which addresses religious issues.

'Influence of Christianity'

It would designate the first week in November as Christian Heritage Week in Alabama's public K-12 schools and require at least 30 minutes of instruction each day on "the influence of Christianity on United States history."

Galliher said the instruction would "reflect the Christian heritage of our country" and it would ease the minds of teachers and parents who are uncertain what can and can't be taught about Christianity in public schools.

A former high school principal, Sen. Quinton Ross, D-Montgomery, said American history textbooks already address the importance of Christianity, including pointing out how Martin Luther King Jr. was serving as a pastor in Montgomery when he got involved in the civil rights movement.

Sen. Parker Griffith, D-Huntsville, said other religions were involved in America's development. "The Christian history, though dominant, was not the only history," and other religions may want special weeks, Griffith said.

"It's true that there are other religions that have been involved, but those other religions are a minority influence on our laws and the way we are," Johnston said.

Johnston stressed that the special week would not be a Bible course.

"It would not be teaching scripture. It would be teaching principles like equality," he said.

Sen. Bradley Byrne, R-Fairhope, said the bill has practical problems because some students, including his daughter, are on the block schedule where they take four courses each semester and don't have history in November.

"She's not taking any course where you could line this up with her coursework," said Byrne, a former member of the State Board of Education.

Deputy State Superintendent of Education Eddie Johnson said the bill would create scheduling problems for public schools.

He also said changes in curriculum are normally approved by the state Department of Education's Course of Study Committee rather than the Legislature, and the department had not been consulted in the development of the bill.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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