Ga. Legislature approves school Bible classes

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

ATLANTA – A bill clearing public high schools to teach Bible classes has been
approved by the Legislature and is on its way to Gov. Sonny Perdue to be
signed.


The Senate voted 45-2 on March 27 to agree to some House changes to the plan,
which would let local school systems create classes on the Old Testament and New
Testament.


The proposal, originally introduced this year by a group of Senate Democrats,
surprised many Republicans, who hold majorities in both the House and
Senate.


Republicans quickly substituted their own version, which specifies that the
Bible itself would be the course textbook.


The proposal, authored by Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams, R-Lyons,
also requires that the courses be taught “in an objective and nondevotional
manner with no attempt made to indoctrinate students.”


Supporters say studying the Bible would give students a better understanding
of art, music, literature, politics and other aspects of Western society.


But First Amendment Center Senior Scholar Charles C. Haynes expressed caution about the measure.

“Properly done, Bible electives can be good for education. But this bill fails to put in place safeguards for doing it right,” Haynes said.

“It is especially troubling that there is no provision for teacher preparation and a mandate to use the Bible as the textbook. Of course, students in a Bible course should read the Bible, but study about the Bible in a public school must have appropriate scholarly context under the guidance of teachers who are academically trained,” he added.

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