A movement to start Bible classes in public schools is gaining ground. Seven states already recognize these classes and six more could soon follow.
The legislators and organizations behind this latest effort say their idea is simple and to the point: Teach the book that has shaped our civilization like no other.
Former Congressman Randy Forbes (R-VA) thinks of it this way: “Who in the world would want to ban or censor one of the top 5 most impactful books in all of history?” he says.
Forbes is helping to lead the Bible class charge. His Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation has joined other Christian groups to promote religious freedom legislation at the state level.
And last week, President Donald Trump gave them a Twitter shout-out, publicly praising the idea of elective Bible classes for high school students.
“Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!” the president tweeted.
“Doesn’t it just make sense that we should have that book that has been so impactful at least be studied and examined by people who want to study and examine in the place where we go to explore ideas and look at what we are going to do for tomorrow?” Forbes asked.
However, not everyone agrees with the former Virginia lawmaker. Jonathan Merritt, contributing writer for The Atlantic, says Christians need to remember the same schools teaching their kids about sexuality and science would now teach them the Bible. It’s a strange acknowledgement about the teaching process.
“It seems to me to be kind of a strange ask that you would say, ‘Yeah, I want a government employee in a public school teaching my kid about Holy Scripture because when it comes to a lot of the scholarly consensus on Holy Scripture these things diverge from majority opinion among evangelicals,” Merritt said.
But others say isn’t that the case with every subject: American history for example? Teaching this subject in the public school system, clearly has its complications.
For example, back in 1963, the US Supreme Court ruled, “The Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities.”
The justices also added it must be presented objectively with no devotional readings.
However, groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union claim that hasn’t been happening and have sued school districts in Texas for not presenting the Bible objectively.
Their main concern? Christians will use these Bible classes as an opportunity to evangelize.
“The problem, critics say, with these bills is that they’re really a covert attempt not just to teach the Bible as history or literature, but to teach the Bible through an interpretive lens essentially to promote Christian values in public schools,” Merritt stated.
But Forbes and others maintain that if schools can objectively teach controversial topics like politics and government, they can do the same with the Bible.
“We are not trying to get someone or tell someone they have to believe a certain thing,” Forbes said. “We are just saying, ‘Look at the history of this book. Look at the importance of the ideas in this book. Look at how it plays a role in even the policies of the United States of America and you make your own decisions.'”
Supporters say it’s a tall order but worth it to teach such an important book to the next generation.