Hope you aren’t tired of reading stories about Bibles in schools yet — there are likely many more to come. In today’s and yesterday’s TFN News Clips alone, we found six stories about public school Bible courses but only ran five and an editorial cartoon. And you can, as the Austin American-Statesman wrote in an editorial yesterday, “[E]xpect to see numerous state school districts in court — and paying hefty legal bills with taxpayers’ money — because their Bible courses promote Protestant Christianity over other religions.” And, with those lawsuits, expect to see many, many more news stories.
Aside from the editorial above, other stories we included in News Clips drove home the Statesman’s reasoning for why many schools could end up in court.
A news story from Waco noted that many Central Texas school districts do not plan to include Bible classes in their course offerings this year for a number of reasons: It’s too close to the start of the school year to rewrite course manuals, they’re finding it difficult to add another elective to their offerings and, most important, districts are confused and worried when it comes to designing the curriculum.
Why is this? It’s simple: The State Board of Education ignored the legislative intent of a bill passed last year instructing the board to, among other things, design specific curriculum standards and guidelines for Bible courses. Instead, the board relied on vague, very general guidelines that, as state Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, said, could be used to design “a course on the history of American Idol.”
Indeed, as another story noted, Marshall ISD in East Texas is planning to conduct research and talk to the community before instituting a Bible course. We can only hope their research and conversations lead them away from the example of Ector ISD in Odessa, which, in a recent lawsuit settlement, agreed to stop using the sectarian, error-riddled National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools’ course materials.
Creating an educational and unbiased class on the Bible’s influence in history and literature requires research. Had State Board of Education members done their research and then issued specific guidelines to school districts and teachers, districts such as Marshall ISD — and across the state — wouldn’t be forced to spend precious resources doing it themselves or, possibly, defending their courses in court.
This is just another failure of leadership by the State Board of Education and its leaders.
Even worse, the problem isn’t going away — and nor are the news stories it sparks.