A Guide for Teaching Bible in Public Schools

The Christian Century, December 1, 1999 | Go to article overview

A Guide for Teaching Bible in Public Schools


A range of religious and secular organizations has endorsed a new guide on teaching about the Bible in public schools. "The Bible and Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide" is published by the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and the National Bible Association.

"It is an historic day when we can announce a broad consensus on teaching about the Bible in our public schools," said Chuck Stetson, vice-chairman of the New York-based National Bible Association, formerly called the Laymen's National Bible Association. "The emphasis is on the word `about' because the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that it is constitutional to teach about the Bible in literature, in history and in social studies. It is, of course, unconstitutional to teach the Bible devotionally in public schools," he said.

The guide urges moving beyond the debate over whether any one religion should be emphasized in public schools, or whether religion should be completely ignored. It suggests a third way, in which the religious-liberty rights of students of all faiths, or no faith, are protected, and curricula include study about religion as part of a full education. "This is a vision of public education that is both consistent with First Amendment principles and broadly supported by many educational and religious organizations," the guide says.

Charles Haynes, religious-freedom programs senior scholar at the First Amendment Center, called the guide "an historic breakthrough" after a long process. …

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