Bible Literacy Project News
Know Thy Bible
Donít fear Scripture teaching
By Rich Lowry
National Review Editor
It's time to get the Bible back in public
schools. And not through the back door of creationism disguised
as Intelligent Design.
America is a Bible-soaked nation, from the Puritans to Abraham
Lincoln to Martin Luther King Jr. Without a basic grasp of the
Bible, it is impossible to understand the well springs of our
country and the basis of Western civilization. Which is why it
is a scandal that Bible education has been chased out of the
schools and why the work of the Bible Literacy Project to put it
back there is so admirable.
The nonpartisan, Virginia-based Bible Literacy Project has set
out methodically to return Bible education to the schools by
answering the questions: Is it legal? Is it needed? How can it
be done? "The Bible and Its Influence," a just-published
textbook for use in grades 9-12, is the culmination of this
effort. Rarely is a textbook an occasion for celebration or
anything but moaning on the part of students, but this
substantial, gorgeously produced, thoroughly vetted volume is an
A few years ago, the Bible Literacy Project published together
with the First Amendment Center a guide on how to teach the
Bible in schools. The list of groups that have endorsed this
consensus statement reads like a who's who from the clashing
sides in the culture war, with People For the American Way
Foundation on the one hand and National Association of
Evangelicals on the other. In 1963, the guide notes, the Supreme
Court struck down devotional Bible reading in schools as
unconstitutional. But the court said schools may teach the Bible
as long as it is "presented objectively as part of a secular
program of education" ó a message lost on most lawsuit-averse
So, Bible education is legal, but is it necessary? Well, only if
you want to be educated. By one count, there are 1,300 biblical
references in Shakespeare's plays, working out to an average of
40 per play. Bible literacy will lead to a deeper understanding
of authors from Herman Melville to Charles Dickens, from William
Faulkner to Toni Morrison. The Bible has inspired the world's
greatest poets, painters and composers, some of its most
influential reformers, and the founding of a great nation
But only 8 percent of public-school teenagers report that their
school offers the Bible or religion as part of the curriculum. A
Gallup survey of high-school students found that large numbers
know the very basics (Adam and Eve, etc.), but not much more.
Two-thirds of teens couldn't correctly identify, given four
options, a quotation from the Sermon on the Mount. They didn't
know what happened on the road to Damascus. About ten percent
think Moses was one of the Twelve Apostles.
As a Bible Literacy Project report put it, "No other book of
comparable influence and importance could be deliberately
excluded from public-school curricula without drawing sharp
criticism from the educational and scientific elites."
Secularists love debates like that over Intelligent Design that
supposedly pit religion against the dictates of sound education.
Here is a debate that has long pitted Bible-fearing (in their
own peculiar way) ACLU-types against the obvious educational
imperative of familiarizing students with the most influential
book of all time.
"The Bible and Its Influence," carefully crafted to be within
legal parameters and approved by dozens of scholars from diverse
religious backgrounds, takes away any excuse to shy away from
Bible education. It is Michael Newdow-proof. Charles Haynes of
the First Amendment Center has written, "At long last, here is
an answer for beleaguered school districts that want to offer a
Bible course, but don't want to get sued."
But inertia is a strong force, especially for overly cautious
school boards. Parents who think the Bible should be part of
education need to tell their school systems about this new book.
It is a way to return the Bible to schools, without lawsuits or
(c) 2005 King Features Syndicate