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FRIDAY, JANUARY 27, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Legislature should not authorize Bible course

Not surprisingly, the Legislature's House Education Committee voted along party lines Wednesday on a measure to authorize public school districts to offer an elective course in the Bible as literature.

Many would be surprised, however, that the measure passed by a 7-5 vote, with all Republicans voting against the measure and all Democrats voting in favor.

There is no question that the Bible, more than any other book, has had a profound impact on Western civilization.

And the textbook "The Bible and Its Influence," published by the Bible Literacy Project, has widespread endorsements from liberals and conservatives alike. It is supposed to help students understand history and cultural development in a way that does not promote religion.

Still, state Democrats are wrong to want to authorize the book's use as a text for an elective course in the Bible as literature.

First, the Legislature has no business in curriculum matters. Those are better left to local school districts.

Second, there is no need for the Legislature to endorse a secular class that teaches the Bible's influence on society, art, history and literature. Teachers are already free to discuss those matters in social studies, art, history and literature classes.

Third, if lawmakers are truly interested in letting schools offer a class on the Bible as literature, then the Bible should be the primary text.

Finally, it would be too easy — and tempting — for teachers of such a class to cross the line and proselytize. That is not a job for public schools.

State Rep. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, was right Wednesday night when he said, as committee members were preparing to vote: "This is more than about the Bible. It is about politics."

We suspect Democrats proposed the measure because they are tired of the public perception that Republicans have a monopoly on religion.

In the process, however, Democrats proved that Republicans don't have a monopoly on foolishness.

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