Magazine article Church & State

'Bible History' Course Should Be Dropped, AU Tells Fla. School

Magazine article Church & State

'Bible History' Course Should Be Dropped, AU Tells Fla. School

Article excerpt

A south Florida school district has voted to adopt a "Bible-as-History" course despite warnings from Americans United that the class is a cover for fundamentalist Christian indoctrination that could lead to a lawsuit.

The Lee County School Board voted 3-2 Aug. 6 to go ahead with the course during an emotional board meeting attended by more than 200 local residents. The vote came after months of debate over the issue.

The five-member board is dominated by three Christian Coalition allies. Earlier this year, they conceived the Bible course as a way of getting moral instruction into the schools. One member, Lanny Moore Sr., a local lumber dealer, says public schools were fine until the Supreme Court ruled against mandatory school prayer in 1962 and '63. "My chart shows everything went south in 1963," he said.

Although the board majority has insisted that the course will he objective and historical, critics disagree. They point to comments Moore made after adoption of the curriculum as evidence that the class will be used to indoctrinate, not educate.

"I would submit many young people in our [schools] don't know who our creator is," Moore said. "Why go through the formality of swearing before God when our kids don't know who a God is. I agree religion ought to be taught in our home, but I believe the Christian Bible is the Bible. The Bible is history, and it has a role in the formation of our country...."

Eva Freeman, a local parent who opposes the curriculum, said Moore's remarks indicate that the curriculum is not suitable for public schools. "There is no doubt in my mind that this course holds a religious rather than a secular meaning for [Moore]," she told the Fort Myers NewsPress. "I think he put himself and the board in a very precarious state regarding any future litigation."

Although the board had hoped to start the classes when school returned to session at the end of summer, principals at two high schools have announced they would not force teachers to offer the class without first training them. The principals, Ed Stickles of North Fort Myers High School and Jim Browder of Cypress Lake High School, said the board's vote came too late for the first term of the 1997-98 academic year. …

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