RICHMOND, Va. — A Virginia senator has introduced a bill that would authorize the creation of elective Bible courses in public high schools, with the stipulation that they be neutral toward religion and do not “favor [or] disfavor … any particular religion or nonreligious perspective.”
Charles Carrico, R-Bristol, filed Senate Bill 1502 last week, which would require school boards to make the courses available as an option for students in grades 9 through 12. Courses may be on the Old Testament, New Testament, or a combination of both.
The Board of Education would be responsible for developing the curriculum guidelines for the class.
“The purpose of any such course is to introduce students to biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture, including literature, art, music, mores, oratory, and public policy,” the bill outlines.
“Each such course shall be designed to familiarize students with the contents, history, and literary style and structure of the relevant texts and their influence on law, history, government, literature, art, music, customs, morals, values, and culture.”
The legislation says that students must not be mandated to use a specific translation of the Bible, and requires that the offerings be neutral on religious matters.
“Any course offered pursuant to this section shall follow all applicable state and federal laws and all state and federal guidelines in maintaining religious neutrality and accommodating the diverse religious views, traditions, and perspectives of enrolled students,” it mandates.
“No such course shall endorse, favor, promote, disfavor, or show hostility toward any particular religion or nonreligious perspective.”
A similar bill was also filed last week in Florida by Democratic Rep. Kimberly Davis, and slightly different legislation has been introduced in North Dakota by Sen. Oley Larsen, R-Minot.
“This is an alternative to a history class elective if a student is interested in the history of the Bible,” Larsen told the High Plains Reader. “It is the one piece of information that founded our country. I believe that history has been lost.”
“If you really want to understand the history of the United States, you really need to understand the philosophy of the Bible and the Christian faith,” also remarked co-sponsor Rep. Aaron McWilliams, R-Hillsboro. “By any means, it doesn’t mean the school needs to push it as a philosophy for your life, but it’s still our history.”
As previously reported, in 1791—just four years after the signing of the U.S. Constitution—Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and vice-president of the Bible Society of Philadelphia, said in expressing his disagreement with deists who were opposed to using the Bible in schools:
“In contemplating the political institutions of the United States, I lament that we waste so much time and money in punishing crimes, and take so little pains to prevent them. We profess to be republicans, and yet we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government, that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by means of the Bible, for this divine book, above all others, favors that equality among mankind, that respect for just laws, and all those sober and frugal virtues, which constitute the soul of republicanism.”
Noah Webster, known as the father of American education, also wrote in his publication “Letters to a Young Man Commencing His Education”:
“Let it then be the first study of your early years to learn in what consists real worth or dignity of character. To ascertain this important point, consider the character and attributes of the Supreme Being. As God is the only perfect being in the universe, His character, consisting of all that is good and great, must be the model of all human excellence, and His laws must of course be the only rules of conduct by which His rational creatures can reach any portion of like excellence.”