Back to the Bible: Bible Electives Still Could Face Legal Challenges
Legislative sponsors and school officials emphasize that Bible electives in public schools are optional, non-denominational, and not intended to proselytize. Yet several groups have pushed back and will be keeping a close eye on how they’re implemented.
Andrew Seidel, a constitutional attorney and strategic response director for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, says the goal of Project Blitz and Bible electives is “to make Christians a favored class in America and turn all non-Christians into second-class citizens.” He adds, “It’s Christian nationalism at its worst.”
In Kentucky, ACLU attorney Heather Gatnarek says investigations into Bible classes reveal “the need for clear, concise, and controlled guidance for teachers in addition to a plan for monitoring these courses.” Without that, she says, “We fear some classrooms will once again be filled with preaching, not teaching.”
The nonprofit organization Bible in the Schools has helped Tennessee’s Hamilton County schools avoid legal entanglements by reimbursing the cost of its Bible History elective class. Last week, Bible in the Schools president Cathy Scott presented Superintendent Bryan Johnson with more than $1.5 million, the district’s largest philanthropic gift of the year. Essentially, that means the classes are provided at no cost to taxpayers.
Hamilton County is “invested in holistically preparing students for a successful future,” Johnson says, “and biblical literacy is one avenue for developing critical thinking, literacy, and cultural awareness.”
Back to the Bible: Most Teachers Favor Bible Electives
According to the 51st annual PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, 58 percent of American adults favor Bible electives in public schools, and six percent say studying the Bible should be required. Support is even higher for comparative religion classes, with 77 percent of adults and 87 percent of teachers saying public schools should offer those.
Meanwhile, 38 percent of poll respondents say they’re concerned that Bible electives may cross the line and promote Judeo-Christian beliefs.
Demographically, the PDK Poll reveals that 37 percent of public school teachers are evangelical Christians, about the same percentage found in the general population. Politically, 40 percent of public school teachers say they’re liberal, 31 percent say they’re moderate, and 28 percent say they’re conservative.