FRANKFORT, Ky. — The Republican governor of Kentucky has signed a bill that authorizes the creation of elective social studies courses on the Bible in public schools.
House Bill 128 overwhelmingly passed the state Senate last month 34-4 after clearing the House 80-14.
As previously reported, the legislation was introduced by Rep. DJ Johnson, R-Owensboro, who says that its purpose is “to provide guidance, uniformity, and constitutional support for the local school boards that may be wanting to offer such courses, but are unsure of the way to proceed.”
Under policies to be crafted by the Kentucky Department of Education, the course would “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.”
It would serve historical purposes rather than provide religious instruction, and districts would be required to stay neutral on Christianity.
Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, told Kentucky Today that a high school in his district is already offering a Bible course, and there has been much interest from students.
“I’ve learned it is one of the most popular classes,” he said. “It’s very successful; the sky didn’t fall with this being taught, and it is very beneficial.”
The bill had been criticized by the Kentucky Council of Churches, which said that the move could be harmful to religious freedom.
“If this were a world religions class or something that gave students the opportunity to learn the historical significance of all religious traditions or sacred text, then we would not be opposed to it,” Interim Executive Director Peggy Hinds told reporters.
But Paul Chitwood, the executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, stated that he is thankful that both the General Assembly and the governor have enacted legislation “to make clear that the Bible is perfectly acceptable on school campuses and in classrooms.” Bevin had also recently signed into law a bill intended to “prevent people of faith from having their political or religious opinions silenced in schools.”
“Having seen so many students and teachers needlessly hurt by administrators who misunderstood religious liberty protections already in place, I believe these new laws will go a long way to clear misconceptions,” he told the Baptist Press.
During debate in the House, Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, also declared that America was not founded on Islam or other religions—it was founded by men who read and followed the Scriptures.
“This country—whether some people want to believe it or not—wasn’t founded as a Muslim nation, wasn’t founded as a Hindu nation, wasn’t founded as a Hari Krishna nation. It was founded as a Christian nation,” he said.
“It’s been said on the floor today that teaching the Bible ain’t going to get it done. Well, let me tell you what didn’t get it done: Kicking God out of school, kicking the Bible out of school, kicking prayer out of school,” Lee proclaimed.
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.
Noah Webster’s famous “Blue Back Speller” also referenced Christianity, including God-centered statements in reading lessons such as “The preacher is to preach the gospel,” “Blasphemy is contemptuous treatment of God,” and “We do not like to see our own sins.” Webster is known as the father of American education.