The Kentucky Education Committee unanimously passed a bill on Oct. 10 that would allow educators to teach Bible literacy classes in the state's public schools and would require the Kentucky Board of Education to draft an elective social studies course on the religious book.
The course, mandated by Senate Bill 278, would focus on improving students' knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry and narratives, with the intention of providing students with analytic skills and historical knowledge that would serve as a framework for understanding contemporary society and culture, reported WKYT.
State legislators said the course would be more educational than religious in content.
"Senate Bill 278 would not teach the Bible -- it would teach about the Bible," said Democratic State Sen. Gerald A. Neal. "The Bible isn't something we should run away from or run to."
The bill's sponsor, Democratic State Sen. Robin L. Webb, said the proposed Bible class would not be much different than any other literature course.
"I remember what it looked like when I had it as literature and it was just like the dissection and discussion of any other book," Webb said. "I'm optimistic, cautiously optimistic like I am with any bill here."
Webb, who said she practiced constitutional law for 30 years, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that the measure "passes constitutional muster."
“This bill would not have a religious connotation as much as a historical connotation,” she said.
But not everyone agrees. Opponents, such as the ACLU of Kentucky, have said it could be difficult to implement truly unbiased lessons.
"Because although there certainly are acceptable ways to teach about the Bible to public school students, such as teaching comparative religion classes or about the Bible’s relationship to literature, art or music, the fact remains that it is difficult, in practice, to do so in a constitutionally permissible manner," said William E. Sharp, the legal director for the ACLU of Kentucky, according to WKYT. "Moreover, the ACLU of Kentucky maintains that parents and religious leaders, not government employees, should teach religious beliefs to children.”