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WBIR TV-10, Knoxville, TN
Campbell County schools to offer Bible course this fall

Alison Morrow

Backpacks at Campbell County High School are crammed with world history, biology, and algebra texts, but nothing dealing in religion, and especially not in the Bible.

"We don't have anything like this in the schools. For years, we've not been able to teach anything that relates to the Bible," said Campbell County Schools Materials Supervisor Dr. Rita Goins.

That's about to change.

The "Bible & Its Influence" texts, now sitting still atop Dr. Goins' desk, only have to wait another semester before decorating classroom shelves.

Bible classes being back in Tennessee's public high schools mark a fairly new development. State lawmakers approved the measure in 2008.

The Tennessee Department of Education established a curriculum in 2009, and Campbell County is wasting no time implementing it.

"It is about expanding our academic horizons, and we feel the Bible is one of the most important historical and intellectual documents from which to draw," said Campbell County Board of Education Member Mark Wells. "We feel like this would be a very strong way to increase academics."

The course is designed as either an English or history elective.

The workbooks to be used ask reading comprehension questions, Greek language questions, even questions about how the Bible influenced Italian opera.

"This is actually how the Bible has influenced other areas of curriculum," said Campbell County BOE Attorney Dail Cantrell. "It's impossible to have a comprehensive public education without a basic understanding of the Bible."

According to the state guidelines, students are allowed to choose their own Bible translation.

Eligible teachers must be certified in either English, history, or humanities.

The course itself should cover key Biblical narratives, poetry and readings -- from both the Old and New Testaments. Students should also be introduced to relevant vocabulary and should learn how the Bible was translated.

What the class is not allowed to become -- church.

"There's nothing wrong with teaching the Bible," Cantrell explained. "You just can't teach people to believe in the Bible."

"This is not a class that is set up to proselytize," Wells said. "That is not legal in Tennessee, and that is not the intent."

The total cost of the class to the district is $2,500.

Campbell County plans to start this fall, with one class offered at both Campbell County High School and Jellico High School.

Knox, Blount, and Sevier counties have offered Bible courses for several years, but they had to petition the state for special approval.


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