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SBOE Must Comply with the Law on Bible Class Standards

Lawmakers Passed Curriculum Requirement to Protect Districts, Taxpayers and Religious Freedom of Students

 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 27, 2008

Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller today called on the State Board of Education to comply with legislation passed last year that requires specific content curriculum standards for new elective Bible courses in public schools.

Last year the Texas Legislature clearly intended in House Bill 1287 for the state board to develop specific content curriculum standards that would guide districts in offering better - and legal - courses about the Bible, Miller said.

"Bible literacy courses deserve the same respect and rigor as classes on health, social studies and mathematics," Miller said. "Moreover, school districts need help in designing these courses to protect the religious freedom of their students and avoid costly lawsuits. That's why the Legislature included this critical safeguard."

A 2006 study by Southern Methodist University biblical studies professor Mark Chancey found that more than two dozen Texas school districts offered courses about the Bible. Most of the districts use general state standards that do not specifically address religion or the Bible, and the state board is considering the formal adoption of those standards for Bible classes.

Yet Prof. Chancey's study found that most of the existing courses fail to meet minimal academic and constitutional standards. Among the problems were plagiarized, error-riddled materials; the promotion of teachers' religious views over all others; and a lack of proper teacher training. (Prof. Chancey's report is available at
www.tfn.org/religiousfreedom/biblecurriculum/.)

H.B. 1287 by state Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, originally included no requirement for specific curriculum standards. But the House Public Education Committee added that requirement and other safeguards to ensure that such courses protect the religious freedom of students. Both the House and Senate passed that amended version of the bill last year.

More states have been considering legislation for public school courses about the Bible's influence in literature and history, Miller said.

"Texas has an opportunity to adopt standards that serve as a national model for how other states can teach courses about the Bible in a respectful way that protects the religious freedom of students and their families," she said.

A state board committee today is holding a public hearing on the proposed curriculum standards for Bible courses. The full board will take up the issue on Friday.

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The Texas Freedom Network is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization of religious and community leaders who advance a mainstream agenda supporting public education, religious freedom and individual liberties.

 

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