Bible Class on History under Fire Civil Liberties Group Contends It Preaches

By Womble, Shannon | The Florida Times Union, January 14, 2000 | Go to article overview

Bible Class on History under Fire Civil Liberties Group Contends It Preaches


Womble, Shannon, The Florida Times Union


A civil liberties organization has asked the state Department of Education to drop a Bible history course, taught in 14 Florida school districts -- including Clay County -- from its approved curriculum.

Representatives from the People for the American Way Foundation, a non-profit national group, said yesterday the classes are being used to preach religion, rather than teach history.

The group's report, issued at a news conference in Tallahassee, is based on a year-long study by the foundation after successfully suing the Lee County School Board two years ago over a Bible history class.

"Public tax dollars are being used to pay for classes that amount to religious indoctrination," said Ralph Neas, president of People for the American Way.

Neas and Lisa Versaci, Florida director of People for the American Way, said they hoped to persuade state and local officials to stop the classes. Versaci said that a lawsuit would be a last resort in their efforts to stop the classes.

After reviewing records from all 14 Florida school districts that had elective Bible history classes in some of their high schools during the past three years, the organization concluded that all the districts violate the constitutional requirement that history of the Bible be taught in a secular, objective way.

The foundation specifically cited tests and study materials handed out in Clay County schools as biased and largely adhering to Protestant religions. For example, one test question at Clay High School asked, "On which day was the sun and stars created?" The foundation said the question suggests the content of the Bible is accepted as true.

At Orange Park High School, the report said, one course required students to memorize the books of the Old Testament in order, which imposes a religious choice because the "order" of books is different in the Hebrew scriptures. …

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