Bible History Class May Draw State Aid
Bynum, Russ, The Florida Times Union
ATLANTA -- Influential Democrats in the Georgia House introduced a bill yesterday that would allow state funding for high schools to teach Bible history, although with restrictions aimed at making sure the classes are constitutional.
Some states, such as Tennessee, already allow Bible history classes in public schools. When Republican School Superintendent Linda Schrenko tried to get approval for the courses in Georgia last year, the state attorney general warned they would be legally risky.
Sponsors of the bill introduced yesterday said they don't want schools to teach religion. Instead, they say the classes would give students a historical and contextual understanding of the Bible and its influence on history, art, music and literature.
"It's one thing to teach religion in public schools. It's another to understand a book that has had the greatest impact on world history than any other document," said Rep. DuBose Porter, D-Dublin, a former chairman of the House Education Committee.
"You can't understand Flannery O'Connor or William Faulkner without understanding the Old and New Testament, much less Shakespeare or Dante," Porter said. The measure also is sponsored by the House Education chairman, Rep. Jeanette Jamieson, D-Toccoa. Majority Leader Larry Walker, D-Perry, is a co-sponsor.
The bill would allow high schools, if they choose, to offer the courses as an elective. The attorney general would have to approve course materials to ensure that they are con- stitutional.
The courses would include teaching the life and parables of Jesus. But the bill would prohibit the curriculum from including topics that have caused similar classes to be declared unconstitutional.
That could affect the teaching of creationism, the virgin birth and Jesus' resurrection -- even use of the Bible itself as a text -- as stated specifically in the measure.
"It seems to have been written with care," said Laughlin McDonald, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union in Atlanta. …