Religion

Kentucky Schools Allowed To Teach Bible

| by Jordan Smith
Republican Kentucky Gov. Matt BevinRepublican Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin

A new law in Kentucky due to come into force on June 30 will allow public schools to teach the Bible.

The legislation, signed by Republican Gov. Matt Bevin at a ceremony on June 27, permits the Bible to be taught as part of an elective social studies class,  HuffPost reported.

The bill was passed by the state legislature in April.

"The idea that we would not want this to be an option for people in school, that would be crazy," said Bevin. "I don't know why every state would not embrace this, why we as a nation would not embrace this."

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The new law will "require that the course provide to students knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture, including literature, art, music, mores, oratory, and public policy."

Republican state Rep. D.J. Johnson was one of the bill's sponsors and believes the Bible should be taught in schools.

"It really did set the foundation that our founding fathers used to develop documents like the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights," Johnson said. "All of those came from principles from the Bible."

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This view is not shared by everyone. While accepting that the Bible can be taught in schools, the American Civil Liberties Union argues that the teaching cannot be done in a religious way. If it is taught as a religion, this will be a violation of the separation of church and state, the organization says.

"We and our allies will work diligently with students and their parents to make sure they know they understand their rights under the U.S. and Kentucky Constitutions," the ACLU's Kate Miller told HuffPost. "We will encourage students to document instances where they feel their rights have been violated."

In testimony Miller provided to Kentucky lawmakers while they were debating the bill, she noted that the Bible could be taught, "but only for its historical, cultural or literary value and never in a devotional, celebratory or doctrinal manner, or in such a way that encourages acceptance of the Bible as a religious document."

This view was backed up earlier in June by the National Council for the Social Studies, which became the first national educational group to recommend religious studies be taught in public schools.

"The study of religion from an academic, nondevotional perspective in primary, middle, and secondary school is critical for decreasing religious illiteracy and the bigotry and prejudice it fuels," the guidelines produced by the council state, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The document emphasizes that schools should not press children to accept any particular religion or impose a view.

Sources: HuffPost, Chicago Tribune / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons (2), David Crumm/Wikimedia Commons

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