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The Bible: Coming to a Classroom Near You?

By John Jessup
Washington Correspondent – WASHINGTON - The Bible is making a comeback in the classroom.

Several public schools are going to the Good Book to help students learn the basics of art, history, and literature.

It is part of an educational movement that is turning a lot of heads.

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Video Segment of this Story

It is the world's best-selling book, and soon could be in a classroom near you. For decades, the Bible had been shelved from public schools, the result of court rulings on the separation of church and state.

But now, the “good book” is being resurrected by some who say the Bible and the basics go hand in hand.

“When an author places something as an allusion in a story, when they are assuming you are bringing resonant pieces of what a symbol or a reference means, if a student doesn't have that, they don't have what the author intended at all,” said Barbara Murray of Westland High School, 1995 Oregon Teacher of the Year.

Last fall, the non-partisan interfaith Bible Literacy Project unveiled a book called The Bible and its Influence.

Its backers, which include educators, lawyers, and religious scholars, consider it the answer to teacher complaints that today's youth aren't making commonly-known cultural connections to the Bible.

Those involved with the project believe the text is the first of its kind, balancing First Amendment concerns with respect for people of different religious faiths.

“It's not just a work of literature, it's sacred Scripture to millions and millions of people. So, I think the textbook has to expose kids to how people of faith see it. Not just one group, one Christian group or one Jewish group, but how a number of them see it,” said Charles Haynes, a contributor to the Bible Literacy Project.

But not everyone is sold. Some see the curriculum as a back channel to endorse religion.

“They do see this as a way not to just talk objectively about the Bible, which would be constitutionally acceptable, but as a way to influence children in the direction of support of the Bible,” said Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

And others oppose it for entirely different reasons. In the same state that sparked a battle over this monument, and in neighboring Georgia, the curriculum has become the center of a heated dispute as local legislators argue whether to adopt the program statewide.

And some evangelical Christians support another curriculum currently used in 37 states. It uses only the Bible as its text. Opponents of this book worry that it waters down biblical truths that could confuse Christian students.

One reviewer wrote that it “…undermines the traditional biblical instruction many parents give their children at home, and that which they receive at church...The Bible and Its Influence includes just plain false information."

But not all evangelicals are on the same page.

Janice Crouse with Concerned Women for America supports the project, calling it "fabulous," long overdue, but she does caution that the Bible must be treated fairly in the classroom.

“What we have to fear is that it will be taught in…a way that is disparaging, patronizing or condescending toward the Bible. Will we find enough teachers who are willing to treat the Scriptures with respect and to teach it very well?” Crouse wondered.

While some continue to debate whether teaching the Bible crosses the line, for the schools that decide it is okay, the new dilemma is which curriculum will pass the test.



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