MONTGOMERY, Ala. — An Alabama senator has prefiled a bill that would authorize the offering of elective Bible classes in public schools in the state, following in the footsteps of several lawmakers who have recently offered similar bills in other states.
Senate Bill 14, submitted by Senator Tim Melson, R- Florence, would also allow all teachers to display artifacts, symbols, and texts in the classroom—including those of a religious nature—if those items would relate to the study at hand, such as a comparative religions lesson.
The bill offers children, grades six through 12, the option of taking a social studies course on the Old Testament, New Testament, or both. The classes will “teach students about Bible characters, poetry, and narratives that are useful for understanding history and contemporary society and culture, including art, music, social mores, oration, and public policy.”
Students will learn about “[t]he influence of the Bible on law, history, government, literature, art, music, customs, morals, values, and cultures,” as well as the history of the Bible and its contents.
However, teachers are required to maintain”religious neutrality” in teaching the course, and “may not endorse, favor, promote, disfavor, or show hostility toward any particular religion or nonreligious faith or religious perspective.”
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh has expressed support for the measure.
“If students choose to study Biblical literacy as an elective in school, then there is no reason why that should not be allowed,” he remarked in a statement.
The Alabama Citizens Action Program (ALCAP) is also backing the effort.
“In the early 60’s, we took Bible reading and prayer out of schools and I think we see the result of that in the increase in violence and other problems within the schools,” Dr. Joe Godfrey told ABC33 News. “Our culture is founded on biblical principles. A lot of people don’t realize that, but our founding fathers relied heavily on the Bible.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Alabama told the outlet that it rather views the bill as having “no useful purpose and is an invitation to lure school districts into a false sense of security to take unconstitutional actions.”
As previously reported, similar bills have been introduced in Virginia and Florida. A North Dakota bill that would have authorized the creation of the Bible classes was rejected in the state Senate last month.
President Trump has expressed support for the offerings.
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.”