State

Feb 19, 2010 8:08 AM

Panel Approves Bible Classes For Public Schools

FRANKFORT (AP) - Kentucky may follow the lead of Texas and a handful of other states in allowing Bible classes to be taught in public schools.

The Senate Education Committee on Thursday unanimously approved legislation that would effectively return the Bible to classrooms across Kentucky.

"The purpose is to allow the Bible to be used for its literature content as well as its art and cultural and social studies content," said state Sen. David Boswell, D-Owensboro, chief sponsor of the bill that is modeled after a Texas measure.

Under the Kentucky proposal, Bible courses would be offered as electives, meaning schools could choose whether to offer them to students as a social studies credit and that students could decide whether to take them.

Boswell said he believes the legislation is constitutional because the Bible won't be taught from a religious perspective. What sets the legislation apart, he said, is that it proposes teaching, not preaching, the Bible.

It's the kind of legislation that most Kentucky lawmakers dare not vote against, especially in an election year. Colleagues heaped praise on Boswell and fellow state Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, who helped explain the measure to members of the Education Committee.

Carroll, a former governor, assured lawmakers that passing the measure is the right thing to do, legally and morally.

"We took the Bible out of our schools, but we put nothing back," Carroll said. "When we took the Bible out of the schools, we also unfortunately took out that portion of the Bible which relates to life skills, which relates to value systems. And so our students these days do not have the full opportunity, in my judgment, to be taught those life skills and value judgments that keep them out of our penitentiaries ..."

The American Civil Liberties Union said some of the comments made by lawmakers suggest that their true intent is to try endorse the establishment of a religion.

"It's not clearly unconstitutional on its face, but it will likely lead to a host of unconstitutional actions by school boards," said ACLU of Kentucky executive director Michael Aldridge. "It's obviously kind of a backdoor means to open the door to teach unconstitutional Bible courses in public schools."
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The legislation is Senate Bill 142.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

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