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Bill would create Bible class for Kentucky’s public schools

State Sen. David Boswell, D-Owensboro

State Sen. David Boswell, D-Owensboro

FRANKFORT — Three Democratic state senators are pushing a proposal to give public schools the option of teaching the Bible as an elective social studies course.

The class would “teach students knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture,” said Democratic Sen. David Boswell of Owensboro, the primary sponsor of Senate Bill 142.

Boswell, a Catholic, said the bill is intended to teach Bible literacy as an academic course, “not as the only religion,” but opponents labeled the proposal an unconstitutional “back-door approach to teaching religion.”

Edwin F. Kagin, national legal director of American Atheists, called the measure “a rampant violation of the separation of church and state.”

Kagin, of Union in Boone County, said students certainly should know biblical references, such as David and Goliath. “But if the Bible is taught in schools it should only be taught as mythology, and I don’t think that is what this bill wants.”

Boswell acknowledged that the proposal also will likely bring criticism from those who would favor the teaching of other religious texts, such as the Koran.

“Since the Bible has played such a big role in our literature, I thought I would go with that,” he said.

Boswell stressed that the proposed Bible class would be an elective. The state Department of Education would have to come up with regulations to implement the course and school-based decision-making councils would have to sign off on it, he said.

Boswell said he filed the bill at the request of a group of people in his Western Kentucky district. Senate Minority Leader Ed Worley, D-Richmond, and Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, have signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.

Kagin said similar legislation has “been popping up all over the country.”

“Why are they doing this?” he asked. “Why not teach courses about the history of the Babylonians and other peoples and civilizations of the time? It is an attempt to teach the entire Bible as truth.”

Sarah Jenislawski applauds Boswell’s bill. She is executive director of the Bible Literacy Project, a non-profit endeavor in Front Royal, Va., to encourage study of the Bible in public schools.

“An educated person is familiar with the Bible,” said Jenislawski, who said she learned about Boswell’s bill after it was introduced last week.

“Teaching of the Bible is legal as long as it doesn’t push one religion over another,” Jenislawski said. “We support allowing state education departments to come up with regulations to be sure the teaching is proper and that’s what appears to be the case in the Kentucky legislature.”

Her group, offers a student textbook for public school courses on the Bible entitled “The Bible and Its Influence.”

She insisted that the course provides an academic study of the Bible’s narratives and their influence on literature and culture and does not promote or discourage religious belief.

For example, she said the course teaches what the Bible says about accounts of the death and Resurrection of Jesus in the New Testament. But “it is left up to the student to decide what to believe,” she said.

She said nine public schools in Kentucky already teach the curriculum but she did not have a readily available list of schools.

According to the Bible Literacy Project, more than 350 public schools in 43 states have implemented courses on the Bible this school year. More than 50 are in Texas.

In 2007, Texas lawmakers passed a law requiring public high schools to teach Bible literacy beginning this year. The law did not call for specific guidelines from the state education department and left many educators confused.

As of late Monday, Boswell’s bill had not been assigned to a committee for its consideration.

Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, said he could not comment on the measure because he has not yet seen it.

Filed Under: EducationKY General AssemblyState Government

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Comments

  1. EJXD2 says:

    I’m unclear why a course of this magnitude couldn’t wait until college?

    Or why the politicos wouldn’t push for a “religious texts” social studies course that included the Koran, the sacred texts of Hindus, etc.

    Singling out the Bible is not appropriate.

  2. Mathew says:

    What happened to good old Humanities courses that taught different aspects of all religions and their affects on cultures throughout history? I had one of these way back in 1993 and found it extremely interesting.

  3. dena says:

    GREAT!!!! I have already viewed other comments as to why they would teach this? Well, here’s my question… why not? If it is elective, then it is not a Required course. Thus, if a student does not believe in the bible, nor wish to even study it or its’ validity, then they can decline it. For others, it is a wonderful option to have. I wish every school at least offered the choice.

  4. Henriette Holder says:

    The damage was done to America by O’Hare. We lost our youth then…no point in trying to make things right now. Parents don’t want their children to learn about God from the schools and they don’t want to teach them about God in their own homes which is exactly why I am having to tolerate people’s immoral, narcisstic, offspring now. Forget trying to save their souls since their parents care so little, just hand them out birthcontrol so maybe we can at least cut back on welfare dollars.

  5. NorwegianDane says:

    This isn’t new. I took a course exactly like this back in High School at Henry Clay in the late 80′s. It was an English elective and was not taught as a religious study in anyway. In fact, I’d really have to say the only problem I had with it was that it was entirely boring.

  6. Chingo says:

    I’m a Christian. I don’t care if the Bible is read in school or not. If you want to read the Bible to learn history or culture, it is fine to read in school. If you want to read to learn about God and His plan for you, get in a Bible study or with an accountability partner and read/pray/read.

    Blessings will flow, so amazing is God’s love for us.

  7. rick west says:

    CAN ANYBODY SAY………….LEAD BALLOON???

  8. P Reynolds says:

    Our leaders must be bored out of their skulls or totally incompetent to continue proposing bills like this.

    This is so wrong!!

  9. Paul says:

    So, if it’s offered as an elective, what’s the harm you say? On the surface, none. However, you give the religious pundits an inch and they want a mile. These folks are advocating forced religion in the schools, like going back to the 50′s and early 60′s. Remember in home room every morning they’d make someone get up and read a bible verse, then say a prayer? For those kids that didn’t want to participate and wouldn’t bow their heads, you can bet the teacher spread the word around the rest of the school that little Johnny is a heathen and should be shunned! If you want your kids exposed to religion, take them to church, read them the bible, etc. Nothing wrong with that. Let the schools teach reading, writing, science, etc. and keep religion out!

  10. yeah right says:

    With all that is wrong in this state & this country, and all that they need to focus on fixing, why would these idiots feel the need to mess with religion in schools? If we keep electing people like this that dont care how many have not jobs, and no insurance, but they want kids to do bible studies in school…we are really in trouble….only in a bad dream is this reality….

  11. Lightbulb says:

    Seriously? This is disappointing on so many levels.

  12. Linda says:

    Wow! Awesome – that’s great….Finally!

  13. Linda says:

    Okay for all of you nay-says…keyword is elective – if you don’t want your kid to take it – don’t let them!!! The majority votes YES!

  14. Mathew says:

    I don’t think it is bad to religion in this context. I just don’t understand why it would be limited to just christianity.

  15. Mathew says:

    “teach religion” sorry

  16. Owensboro Resident says:

    Why isn’t anyone questioning why Boswell suddenly introduced this bill, AFTER he got an opponent in the general election? A bill like this, in my opinion, is more a way to try and rally support around the sponsor than it is to try and present effective legislation. Never once has David Boswell ever spoke of this being a need, except of course when he was running for Congress and he wanted to tout the fact he helped write KERA, but he refuses to take credit for the tax increase that went with it.

  17. All over it says:

    Boswell is a real card. He’s looking for ammo to use against his conservative opponent back home in Owensboro. He’s heard the polling shows he’s very vulnerable and is grasping for anything to save his job.

    Do you Bible thumpers realize Boswell was the leading advocate for expanded gaming for several years before the Exec Inn, his employer that wanted a casino, closed in 2008? Talk about a double standard, geez.

  18. unfair says:

    Can they understand this: GET TO WORK AND BALANCE THE BUDGET AND STOP DRUMMING UP NEW BILLS TO MEET AND TALK ABOUT……

  19. Now this is the kind legislation I could support and I would introduce the same at the Senate, if elected. Let us make a U turn in our lives and get this country on the right track.
    John Stephenson
    Canidate for United States Senate

  20. Gracchus says:

    If this bill is really just about teaching about religion, rather than promoting a particular religious viewpoint, why don’t they just make it a survey of world religions instead of merely the Bible? This would provide a neutral platform which I think would meet First Amendment requirements, and it would teach young people about many religions, not just a particular brand of Christianity.

  21. Ponzio says:

    A virgin birth, a talking snake, loaves-to-fishes, water-to-wine and walking-cane-to-snakes: it’s like the diaries of a madman. Or an acid casualty.

  22. John Reggs says:

    Sunday School is for teaching the bible, catholic school is for teaching religious beliefs, temples are for teaching religion but my tax dollars are NOT for promoting one religion.

    Tread Lightly comes to mind!

  23. Marion County says:

    I have no problem with it as long as Muslims, Jews, Buddists, Athehists and other religions are available to children to take if they wish. but there is the snag. No one wants to offer this I am sure. Just the Bible.
    I am tired of the entire prayer in school debate. Prayer is available in school. But you have to send your children to private schools. Yea, I know, theres the rub for most people, you have to pay for it. Well if its so important to you, how is that a problem? Keeping church and state seperate was very important to the founding fathers, because most countries where they were from, had national religions, and they did not support that.
    I am glad my parents sent me to private school. But they did sacrifice to do it. They did not complain, it was a choice.
    I do not want my tax dollars used to promote Christianity anymore than I want it used to promote the Muslim religion or others.
    As for prayer in school…would you be happy if your child had to say the “Hail Mary” everyday?

  24. EastKentucky says:

    Kentucky is hopeless. We can hire taliban guys to learn how to do religion education.

  25. Mark says:

    Considering so many under educated legislators in Kentucky, it is necessary to have some tests to qualify them. Otherwise Kentucky will become Haiti of America.

  26. Tom says:

    As a tax paying citizen, I do not want MY tax dollars spent teaching religion in ANY form in PUBLIC schools. If you want to learn religion or anything about religion, then by all means go to church! That’s YOUR choice. You would not want me telling you what to teach in your church would you? For those of you who listen to those who say “it’s an elective”, you must understand that their agenda is far from the idea of adding variety to the electives that our children have to choose from. These people are insidious in their efforts to have THEIR brand of beliefs forced upon our society. This way of thinking is beyond dangerous.

  27. Thomas Paine says:

    “All Over It” is correct. Boswell is just trying to raise his conservative credentials for his reelection campaign in Daviess County. Couldn’t be more obvious. This should just be ignored as the political move that it is.

  28. FirstAmendmentGroupie says:

    Sure! Teach it, but open up the curriculum to include other literary texts that have been “banned” historically and currently.

    The real question is how will this be monitored? Teach your own kids your religious values, but leave moral instruction of my children to me!

    Sounds like some kind of “faith based” initiative by fundamentalists.

  29. zed says:

    My children attended a Catholic Parochial School. I once was asked if they pray in school and I said they’d better be, that’s one of the reasons they attend.

    There is no place for religion of any kind in public schools. They can barely teach math and the English language, so why would anyone think that they would do a good job with religion? My children’s religion is my responsibility, not a local school board’s.

  30. Dennis says:

    Christian Hypocrites:

    “All the people that teach in the synagogues (which are churches) and on the streets are hypocrites” for they like and even love to stand in those very same places and pray out loud in order to garner attention to themselves”. – Direct quote from Jesus Christ himself in the Nag Hamadi texts that were discovered at the end of World War II and were deleted by the Catholic Church (censorship by the church). “God is an invisbable spirit that cannot be seen by human eyes”. – Jesus. You are human and you cannot see him.
    The Catholics themselves are guilty of crimes against humanity and even the Christians are not escapable because they caused the Crudades in the Middle Ages that caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands throughout the 11th to 14th Centuries and they still believe that an invisable man is gonna come out of the sky and save them, they’ve been waiting 2000+ years and it hasn’t happened. There are over 550+ religions in the world today and the Christians think they are the only one, pick one religion and follow it to the T, it cannot be done.

  31. can't fix stupid says:

    Its a sad day when we approve the use of the bible but we will burn a book that uses a word that is deemed offensive. The same persons that are for this B.S are the same ones that gripe about paying the tax that will be needed to pay for this pile of —-!

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