Texas Freedom Network Statement on Senate Passage of Bible Class Bill

Texas Freedom Network Statement on Senate Passage of Bible Class Bill

Senate Keeps Safeguards That Protect Religious Freedom in Public School Bible Classes

May 23, 2007

The Texas Senate today overwhelming passed a bill setting standards for public high school classes about the Bible. The bill includes safeguards for religious freedom unanimously adopted by the House earlier this month. It also leaves to local school officials the option to offer these classes. Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller released the following statement on Senate passage of House Bill 1287:

“Today the Senate kept safeguards in this bill that should prevent government from telling our schoolchildren what to believe about the Bible,” Miller said. “We will now join with families across the state to ensure that schools adhere to the bill’s clear standards that promote respect for both the Bible and the religious freedom of all students.”

State Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, authored H.B. 1287, which would have required every public high school to offer classes about the Bible beginning in September of this year. The Texas Freedom Network insisted that safeguards for religious freedom be added to the bill. In April the House Public Education Committee agreed unanimously to those safeguards. The House kept those safeguards when it passed the bill earlier this month. Those safeguards include:

– measures on teacher training and qualifications,
– requirements for curriculum standards and an actual textbook (rather than using the Bible as the textbook),
– stronger protections for the religious freedom of students and their families, and
– allowing local school officials to decide whether their districts will offer courses about the Bible, based on the guidelines in the bill, beginning in the fall of 2009.

A 2006 study for the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund by Dr. Mark Chancey, a professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University, identified 25 public high schools already offering such courses in Texas. (The report is available at www.tfn.org/religiousfreedom/biblecurriculum/.) Many of the courses suffer from serious problems, including a failure to meet even minimal standards for teacher qualifications and academic rigor. More seriously, many end up being courses about the religious views of the teachers, undermining the religious freedom of the students and their families.

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.