Iowa Bill Would Authorize Elective Bible Course in Public Schools

Photo Credit: Wong Mei Teng

DES MOINES, Iowa — A bill has been introduced in the Iowa legislature that would authorize school districts in the state to create an elective course on the Bible as a social studies class.

“Basically, I want to give students the opportunity to study the Bible from the perspective of its impact on history and culture,” sponsor Rep. Dean Fisher, R- Montour, told the Des Moines Register.

House File 2031 would allow the course to be offered to interested students in high school settings, but would not mandate that districts do so.

“This bill directs the state board of education to adopt rules establishing course standards for elective social studies courses on the Hebrew Scriptures or the New Testament of the Bible,” the bill outlines in part. “The bill authorizes a school district to offer and teach such a course to students in grades 9 through 12 if the district’s school improvement advisory committee recommends and the board of directors of the school district approves, the course.”

It explains that “[t]he purpose of the course must be to provide students with knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture, and to familiarize students with the contents, history, literary style and structure, and influence of the Hebrew Scriptures or the New Testament of the Bible.”

However, schools would not be permitted to endorse Christianity over other religions, nor would staff be allowed to speak against other religions.

“A course offered under the bill is subject to federal and state guidelines regarding religious neutrality, and shall recognize and accommodate the diverse religious views, traditions, and the perspectives of students enrolled in the school district,” it states. “Such a course shall not endorse, favor, promote, or disfavor, or be hostile toward, any particular religion, faith, or non-religious perspective.”

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Read the bill in full here.

Local group The Family Leader has endorsed the legislation.

“Today, we are raising generations of children ignorant of the origin of core American values that should unite us, such as the historically radical, but biblically inspired ideal that all people have inherent worth and equality and are ‘endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights,'” said spokesman Drew Zahn. “These foundational and historical American values did not spring from the cornucopia of ‘world religions,’ but specifically from the Judeo-Christian Scriptures.”

The Iowa Interfaith Alliance had told the Des Moines Register that it opposed the legislation because world religions are already included in some social studies classes.

As previously reported, two senators in West Virginia also recently presented a bill authorizing the creation of an elective course on the Bible—legislation that slightly differs from the Iowa proposal in that all districts would be required to offer the optional class.

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 are stated to have 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, a schoolmaster, is known as the “father of American education” and strongly advocated teaching children the Scriptures.

123 of the first 126 colleges established in America were founded on Christian principles. Harvard University, named after Pastor John Harvard, held the motto “Truth for Christ and the Church.”

“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 …” its student manual read.

Princeton’s motto was “Under God’s Power She Flourishes.” The first president of Princeton, Pastor Jonathan Dickinson, said, “Cursed be all learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ.”

Yale also wrote in its requirements in 1745, “All scholars shall live religious, godly and blameless lives according to the rules of God’s word, diligently reading the Scriptures…”

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  • Vince

    What if the course is taught by an atheist or a progressive “Christian”? You can bet they’d spend more time on Joshua and Judges than the Sermon on the Mount.

    • james blue

      I don’t think this is a good idea. It’s more likely to become one of those “be careful what you wish for’ situations like when Louisiana passed a program where students at “failing” public high schools can use government-paid vouchers to enroll in alternate schools including those that are private or religiously affiliated. They were fine with all the Christians schools getting the money, but then 38 students tried to use them to enroll at a private Islamic school and their opinion of the program changed.

  • james blue

    Every state in the US already has “elective bible study”. It’s operated in Churches and homes in almost every community and that’s the way it should be. We should be raising our children in our faith, not farming it out to government.

    This seems to be a new social conservative tactic to use tax payer funds to further a religious political agenda.

    • Enniscorthy

      PRECISELY what it is.

  • Nothing wrong with teaching from the Bible.

    • DrIndica

      As history, literature or comparative religions as a sociology course…sure

      • getstryker

        Sure, just like it is when our children are taught about Islam . . . right???!

        • DrIndica

          In a world religions class, sure. Nothing wrong with taking part in a well rounded and diverse education.

          • getstryker

            Reports are that these supposed classes on comparative religions, are especially LONG on Islam & very SHORT on Christianity. The ruckus in San Diego schools come to mind.

          • DrIndica

            You forgot Judaism, Gnosticism, Pastafarianism, and rational thought that doesn’t rely on a deity for a sense of morality.

          • getstryker

            Oh, I do understand that ‘they’ (meaning other religions) are out there but they are NOT, for the moment, generally killing Christians & Jews around the world & trying to indoctrinate our kids here at home. I have no problem with teaching comparative religions but I do take exception when it has been taught in the manner it has recently and still is. ;-(

          • DrIndica

            Saying all Muslims are killing Christians and Jews, is analogous to saying all Christians are members of the Klan, who also attempt to indoctrinate toward white superiority.

          • getstryker

            Pleeeease . . . let’s both stay within the realm of reality here . . . agreed, ALL Muslims are NOT killing Jews & Christians, NOR are ‘true Christians’ members of the Klan, however, the attempt to indoctrinate American kids in the tenants of Islam is currently being done under the guise of anti- bullying programs – any aspects of Christianity are dismissed/denigrated & denied. That is simply a fact.

          • DrIndica

            Some aspects of Christianity should, rightfully, be dismissed.

          • getstryker

            You’re free to keep, question, or dismiss anything about it you like 😉

          • DrIndica

            That is a very noble attitude. Nice to chat with someone that doesn’t immediately threaten me with hell due to questions or doubt…Thanks!

          • getstryker

            You’re quite welcome & the same for yourself – you & I have had a civil discussion & I have enjoyed it. in the end, every person is entitled to their opinion & beliefs . . . what the result of those will become – time will tell.
            Thank you!

    • peanut butter

      In our country’s humble beginnings, the Bible was used to learn how to read, write, etc. because everybody had a Bible and books were scarce. For anybody to think the term ‘separation of church and state’ means religion cannot be practiced anywhere in particular, our history proves them WRONG.

  • Sam Osborne

    This prompts the author of this post to wonder if all of the roots underlying his own faith will also be acceptably taught in public school and in physical education some moments of inactivity encouraging one to be informed by the wisdom of awe. Much of what has kept me fiddling away on the roof of my faith is as Tevye sang forth in Fiddler on the Rood: “TRADITION . . . TRADITION.”

    Among people willing to consider themselves Christian all do not consider the Bible to be the one and only source of their faith—this single source theological view referenced as solo sola scriptura (in Latin meaning that Scripture alone is authoritative root of faith and practice of a Christian). There are other Christians whose faith comes of the experience of what they consider to be of wider human enlightenment: their expanded consideration variously ranging atop three, to four, or to five sources ranging through such things as oral and written views of both old and new, tradition, reasons, and personal experience that may consist of noting more than moments of wordless awe—and some may appear to have thrown in the kitchen sink and a big black hole or two.

    If we are to throw the book at public school children, best we understand that it is going to come hit or miss and with a lot of questions that are not solely in one book or in one way. And consistently read or decline to read anything—letters to the editor, any section of a newspaper or anything else, and all are still left to deal with the fact that in one’s own personal way that our subscription to life on Earth runs out. And with no proof of proof accepted to be so by all, each of us is left to be wrong in our own special way.

    To avoid butting heads and mangling bodies over conflicting ways best we adopt as a dictum on faith that Thomas Paine expressed in 1794 in forward to issue of his own testament in “Age of Reason.” To wit, “My opinions upon Religion: You will do me the justice to remember, that I have always strenuously supported the Right of every Man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it. The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is Reason.”

  • As a retired public school teacher I know–for sure–that public schools cannot be reformed. We must RESCUE our children! Get them into home or Christian schools before it is too late.

  • peanut butter

    If they get this class that only talks about the effects of the Bible on society, and not the actual teachings of the Bible, this course may open the doors to a class to study the koran. That would be worse than not being able to teach about the Bible. Somebody might ought to rethink this.

    • getstryker

      This is nothing but a ‘cover’ to hide the fact that the tenants of Islam is & will be taught in schools . . . San Diego schools are an example of the future. Research this and more: ‘Parents sue San Diego school district over ‘Anti-Islamopobia Initiative’