A Humanist View
Public Schools: A Battleground for the Religious Right
If you have a child currently enrolled in public school be warned: a heavy dose of religion may accompany his or her studies.
According to Kimberly Winston of Religion News Service, a number of state legislators are now pushing some legislation that would introduce studying the Bible as a choice in their state's public schools, and other legislation that would teach creationism as valid.
Bible courses, offered as elective "literature" classes, are being considered by lawmakers in Arizona and have already been approved in South Dakota, South Carolina, Texas, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Since these classes are not mandatory and are supposed to be taught with religious neutrality, there has not been a great deal of public opposition to them. Some school districts within the states where they are allowed still choose to not offer them at all.
But while the idea of these classes is being sold to us as maintaining the constitutionally required separation of church and state, a closer look reveals the claimed neutrality of these efforts to be more than suspect. The Bible Literacy Project and the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools are two of the main groups pushing for these classes, and their motivations are clearly not neutral.
While the National Council on Bible Curriculum writes on its main web page that their program "is concerned with education rather than indoctrination of students," on another page they declare "the Bible was the foundation and blueprint for our Constitution, Declaration of Independence, our educational system, and our entire history until the last 20 to 30 years." That goes rather firmly in the face of evidence that the Constitution is based on many Enlightenment Era (mostly non-religious) sources, and that our laws find their real basis in English common law, not any Bible. Disturbingly, the organization claims to have their curriculum implemented in 593 U.S. school districts.
The Bible Literacy Project, which claims their textbook is used in 43 states and in over 500 public schools, also makes a claim of being neutral, saying their course "frames the classroom discussion in constitutionally acceptable ways." But a page with links for "student Bible resources" takes students to places like the American Bible Society, a group that uses the slogan "God's Word Where Needed Most" and has an active Bible Ministry program.
Roy Speckhardt is the Executive Director of the American Humanist Association. He is also a board member of the organization providing Humanists leadership training, the Humanist Institute, and an advisory board member of Secular Student Alliance. Follow him at http://twitter.com/americnhumanist.