Magazine article Church & State

Out with the New, in with the Old, Says Court in Fla. Bible Class Case

Magazine article Church & State

Out with the New, in with the Old, Says Court in Fla. Bible Class Case

Article excerpt

In a mixed verdict for church-state separationisis, a federal district court has allowed an Old Testament class to begin in a Florida public school, but blocked a proposed New Testament class.

On Jan. 20 U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich refused to issue a preliminary injunction blocking an Old Testament class in Lee County high schools because she found it sufficiently secular to pass constitutional muster. However, a New Testament class promoted by a Religious Right group was too religious, the judge continued, and must be revised.

The Gibson v. Lee County School Board decision was a partial victory for a group of parents and taxpayers who oppose the Bible-as-history classes touted by the Religious Right-dominated county school board.

Addressing the locally developed Old Testament class, Kovachevich held that "the adoption of a curriculum ostensibly designed to teach history and not religion meets the secular purpose requirement." However, she also ruled that opponents of the class may videotape the class to ensure that it meets constitutional standards.

On the other hand, the judge could not accept the proposed New Testament class, which was prepared by the National Council oil Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, a Religious Right advocacy group based in Greensboro, N.C.

Citing federal court precedents, Kovachevich said she "finds it difficult to conceive how the account of tile resurrection [of Jesus] or of miracles could be taught as secular history." She criticized the school board majority for ignoring its own attorneys' advice on the issue. …

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