Efforts by religious conservatives to get more public schools to teach courses about the Bible got the public support of President Trump late last month:
Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 28, 2019
Public schools have always had the ability to offer courses about the Bible and its influence in history and literature so long as the courses have an academic, not devotional, purpose. Unfortunately, very often public school Bible courses fail that test. Many end up essentially turning public school classrooms into Sunday school classrooms that promote a particular sectarian perspective.
Mark Chancey, a professor of religious studies at SMU in Dallas and a leading authority on the issue, has authored four reports about public school Bible courses for the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund. Two of those reports revealed serious problems with how those courses have been implemented in Texas public schools.
Texas in 2007 passed a law encouraging school districts to offer Bible courses. Lawmakers in at least six other states this year alone have proposed similar legislation, efforts backed by an array of conservative religious groups.