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Is Odessa the Next Dover?

West Texas school board adopts controversial Bible curriculum denounced by legal and Biblical scholars


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 21, 2005


AUSTIN On the same day a federal judge ruled that the attempt by the Dover school board to inject their own religious faith into public school classrooms was unconstitutional, an Ector County school board decision may have repeated the same error.

The Ector County ISD was repeatedly warned by legal experts and Biblical scholars about flaws in the curriculum produced by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBCPS). Despite those warnings, and over the objections of parents, clergy and local curriculum experts, the Board voted (4-2) last night to adopt the NCBCPS curriculum for use in Ector County schools beginning next fall.

“For those who don’t know how this story will end, the federal judge in the Dover case provided a preview, “said TFN President Kathy Miller. “The NCBCPS curriculum clearly promotes one religious viewpoint over all others. By adopting this curriculum, the Ector County school board decided it is their responsibility to interpret the Bible for kids, a role we believe is best left to parents and clergy.”

Earlier this year, the Ector County school board formed a committee of local teachers to review curriculum options for the course. Despite evaluating several curricula and holding public hearings, the committee was never permitted to present its recommendation. Instead, Superintendent Wendell Sollis recommended the NCBCPS materials at last night’s board meeting without comment or reference to the committee.

“I am sad that the board took something positive, a Bible class, and turned it into something that has ultimately divided our community on religious lines. It didn’t have to be this way. We could have been a model for how schools can appropriately teach the Bible and respect people of all faiths,” said Steve Jenkins, Odessa resident and professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Texas Permian Basin.

After the board announced its decision, an impromptu prayer meeting broke out on the steps of the administration building. Singing,

Victory is mine; Victory is mine.
I told Satan, “Get thee behind!”
Victory today is mine,

supporters of the NCBCPS curriculum clearly saw the board’s action as an endorsement of their religious views.

“School board members and NCBCPS representatives repeatedly insisted that support for this curriculum wasn’t based on a particular religious perspective. Anyone who saw the scene immediately after the board decision last night would have serious doubts about those statements,” stated Ms. Miller. “Clearly, yesterday’s ruling in Dover, hasn’t put a stop to activist school boards who seek to promote their religion over everyone else’s.”

An August report, which can be found at www.tfn.org, by Dr. Mark Chancey, a Southern Methodist University professor of biblical studies, highlighted serious problems with the NCBCPS curriculum. The report detailed factual errors, examples of extensive plagiarism, evidence of poor scholarship and the promotion of a single, narrow religious viewpoint. Since that report was released, nearly 180 biblical scholars at respected institutions around the country have endorsed Dr. Chancey’s report and oppose using the National Council’s Bible curriculum in public schools.

The NCBCPS subsequently published a revised curriculum, but the biggest problem still remains its course promotes one religious viewpoint over others.

 

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