FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Kentucky Senate has approved a bill authorizing the creation of an elective social studies course on the Bible in public schools.
S.B. 278 directs the Kentucky Board of Education to “promulgate administrative regulations” for the course, which may include an elective study on the Hebrew Scriptures or the New Testament, or both.
The legislation outlines that the purpose of the course is to “teach students knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture, including literature, art, music, mores, oratory, and public policy.”
Sponsor Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, told the Senate Education Committee on Thursday that the course will serve historical purposes as opposed to religious instruction.
“What this does is to allow Bible literacy courses in the form of a social studies elective,” she said. “This bill would not have religious connotation as much as a historical connotation.”
“A course under this section shall not endorse, favor, or promote, or disfavor or show hostility toward, any particular religion or nonreligious faith or religious perspective,” the proposed bill further notes.
The committee unanimously approved S.B. 278 following the hearing, sending the matter on to the full Senate for a vote, which likewise placed its stamp of approval on the move on Monday.
“I am happy to see this bill moving forward,” Webb told The Independent. “I had a Bible class in high school and it was very beneficial to me from a historical position.”
But the Anti-Defamation League is expressing concern that the course could result in proselytization even though Webb states that the course’s purpose is solely historical in nature.
“Although the current version of the bill incorporates constitutional standards, additional safeguards are necessary. The legislation does not oblige course instructors to receive training on how to teach about the Bible in a constitutional manner and fails to provide the resources needed for such training,” it wrote in a statement.
“Without this training, it would be all too easy for these Bible courses to lead—intentionally or inadvertently—to unconstitutional proselytizing or endorsement of religion, which would inevitably lead to students feeling excluded and schools being subject to costly lawsuits,” the League continued.
As previously reported, the first textbook used in the American colonies even before the nation’s founding, “The New England Primer,” was largely focused on the Scriptures, and was stated to be popular in public and private schools alike until approximately the early 1900’s. It used mostly the King James Bible as reference, and spoke much about sin, salvation and proper behavior.
“Save me, O God, from evil all this day long, and let me love and serve Thee forever, for the sake of Jesus Christ, Thy Son,” it read.
Many of the Founders’ children learned to read from the primer.
Harvard University, the first university founded in America, possessed the motto “Truth for Christ and the Church.” It was named after minister John Havard.
“Let every scholar be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life. Therefore, to lay Christ in the bottom as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning,” the institution declared.