Kentucky Puts Bible Classes in Public Schools

The separation of church and state has generally been successful at keeping the Bible out of public schools, but Kentucky legislators seem to have invented a deliberate way of getting around that obstacle. Lawmakers passed HB 128, aka the Bible Literacy Bill, to create a high school class that would give students an opportunity to take an in-depth look at the Bible.

The class will be offered to students as an elective, meaning students will have to register for it by their own volition. Since public school teachers cannot preach religion, the class is said to instead focus on “provid[ing] students knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture.”

Considering generations of students have successfully managed to understand contemporary society and culture without reading the Bible, it’s hard not to see this class as an attempt to get the book into public schools while staying in the realm of constitutionality.

Republican Governor Matt Bevin signed HB 128 into law. Incidentally, the governor previously signed a proclamation making 2017 the “Year of the Bible” in Kentucky. He also encouraged people to participate in a Bible-reading marathon across the state. Related acts like that would suggest that the governor wants to see the Bible in school beyond scholarly purposes.

Although other parts of the country have found ways to bring Christianity into the classroom, it’s usually as part of a world religion or comparative religion curriculum. In those contexts, students are exposed to Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, etc. as well.

D.J. Johnson, a conservative state legislator who sponsored the bill, justified the legislation thusly: “Whether you believe that it’s the word of God or you think it’s complete fiction, you can’t deny the impact [the Bible]’s had on our culture.”

That’s a fair point, but does bringing the Bible into the public school classroom serve to solidify its cultural impact further? And will students who do view the Bible as a work of fiction be respected and encouraged to voice these thoughts in classroom discussions?

With 76 percent of Kentuckians identifying as Christian (and most of those people identifying as Evangelical) the Bible is already all over the place in other aspects of the state. Still, 22 percent of Kentuckians tell pollsters that their religious affiliation is “none,” meaning there is still a sizable minority of people who presumably wouldn’t want the Bible to become commonplace in their schools.

Presently, it’s not entirely clear what the course will focus on specifically since the curriculum has not been developed and the law itself is vague.

“The concern, though, is that you could have a curriculum that is constitutional and could be delivered in a manner that is not constitutional,” said Amber Duke, Communications Manager for the Kentucky ACLU.

That’s why organizations like the ACLU will be keeping an eye on how these classes work in reality. If they’re taught not as a cultural study, but as a Sunday School class of sorts, that would certainly open the door to lawsuits.

The bottom line is that you don’t see the state legislatures actively passing bills requiring schools to offer other kinds of classes.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

89 comments

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill10 days ago

It can ONLY help the state of our society! Since we took the Bible & prayer out of our schools things have gotten progressively worse!

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Michelle Spradley
Michelle Spradley1 months ago

"Considering generations of students have successfully managed to understand contemporary society and culture without reading the Bible..." AND we can all see how well that has really turned out for our society and culture. Everything is just going so well and so peaceful why would anyone consider changing the current course?

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Michelle Spradley
Michelle Spradley1 months ago

"Considering generations of students have successfully managed to understand contemporary society and culture without reading the Bible...", Yes, and society has been functioning so well ever since. What part of ELECTIVE CLASS is confusing to the LIBERAL REICH? If they wanted to promote a class called The Benefits of Atheism you would be all for it with many probably asking for it to be a required course.

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Amanda M
Amanda M1 months ago

To the Religious Reich in Kentucky, the 22% who don't identify as Christian are probably seen as "somebody that needs to be 'saved' NOW." These idiots need to wake up and realize that a class like this without teaching about other world religions is nothing more than yet another attempt to proselytize to students in public schools, just like those "Good News Clubs" that have been plaguing elementary schools all over the country for years! Talk about a captive and easy-to recruit audience! Scary stuff! Karen H, now you know why I hated being dragged to Sunday school classes as a kid! Every week, I'd be getting into trouble for asking a question that the teacher couldn't answer without quoting Scripture or objecting to something that they taught us. And Paul Carter, I started reading other cultures' mythology in fourth grade and got in major hot water at Sunday school by asking why there's not Goddesses to go with the God! That was the first of many cracks in the wall of Christianity that finally drove me to "quituate" Sunday school at age 14 and led me to find my true path in Eclectic Wicca during college. So now when a CHINO (CHristian In Name Only) tries to harass me into converting by threatening me with hell if I don't get "saved," I tell them I've already been there, spank you very much!

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RICKY SLOAN
RICKY S2 months ago

WOW

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Philippa P
Philippa P2 months ago

Thanks.

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Leanne K
Leanne K2 months ago

FFS what is with America and religion?
Theres not much separation of powers going on. No ballyhoo about the constitution like with your right to bear arms. Doesnt make much sense and theres no consistency.

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David F
David F2 months ago

https://www.prageru.com/courses/history/was-america-founded-be-secular

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Norman P
Norman P2 months ago

School is to teach reality, not fantasy. This is a form of molestation of children.

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Margaret G
Margaret G2 months ago

Gah! Bi below means "Bible class"

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