Our View: Bible classes in public schools could be controversial

Published 8:58 am Monday, February 20, 2017

A bill has been proposed to the Kentucky Senate that would allow elective Bible literature classes to be taught in public schools.

Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, proposed the bill to “familiarize students with Biblical narratives, stories and characters which have influenced western culture, civics, literature and art.”

It would be hard to argue that Christian beliefs and principles shaped much of American culture, but so have many other religions and belief systems.

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There could certainly be a benefit to teaching a course focused on how the Bible and Christianity have influenced our culture. Moreover, it would be intriguing to have a class focused on how many different religious beliefs have shaped western culture, because our culture has not only been shaped by Christianity, as much as many would like to think.

If such a law should pass, it would be of utmost importance that the course remains elective, so as not to impose any religious beliefs on students. There are various other important things legislators should consider before opening public schools up to potential controversy.

Some senators expressed concern about imposing the religious beliefs of teachers or administrators on students. We agree, it would be difficult to teach a class about the Bible without including the instructor’s own interpretation of the scripture. There may even be some legal implications if instructors took their own interpretations too far.

Moreover, would exclusively teaching Bible literature classes promote one religious belief over another? Religious freedom is a constitutional right enjoyed in the U.S., thus laws separating church and state have been formed, and for good reason. Public schools are state- and federally-funded entities that should tread carefully when it comes to the potential to overstep the boundaries of these laws.

Admittedly, learning about religion and the effect it has on culture could be enlightening for many students, but the harmful implications of such a class may outweigh those benefits.

We urge the Senate and potentially House of Representatives to consider this balance when they take the issue up in this session.