The Bible is “not just ‘The Good Book.’ It’s a good book.” So says Tommie Williams, Majority Leader of the Georgia State Senate. As reported by AP, Williams sponsored a bill that will make Georgia the first state to fund Bible classes in public schools. According to the article, “The Bible already is incorporated into some classes in Georgia and other states, but some critics say the board’s move, which makes the Bible the classes’ main text, treads into dangerous turf. The U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of freedom of religion is often interpreted as implying a separation of church and state.”
Although I consider myself something of a skeptic, I feel compelled to respond: on the face of it, I have no major problem with this. During my senior year of high school, my English teacher had us read selections from the Bible, as well as from Greek and Roman mythology, in order to identify the allusions frequent in other literary works. I didn’t feel that my rights were infringed upon. Honestly, it was an informative and generally enjoyable set of lessons. These days, I don’t read my Bible very often, but I think Williams is right: it is a good book.
As a graduate of Thomas Jefferson’s University, I don’t see that this violates the separation of church and state, provided that it is taught in an “objective and non-devotional manner.” To be honest, I would like to see classes on the Koran and the Torah as well. (I’d like to think that Mr. Jefferson—we refer to him as though he were still alive—would agree with me on this.) Whether or not a bill that offered such classes would pass might say something about the state of politics today, but I’ll leave that for another place and time.
I will grant that the “temptation” for proselytism by teachers exists, but religious supporters of the bill might argue that it is no different for biology teachers who teach the “theory” of evolution. Let’s remember that the evolution v. creationism debate is very much alive, particularly in the public school systems of the South. Nevertheless, these are courses that should be taught very carefully.
One final disclaimer: the article does not make clear whether or not these courses would be electives, but I will assume that they are. If my assumption is wrong, this entire post can be disregarded.