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Does a textbook about the Bible fit in public school?

October 01, 2005|By:

o7Last week, a group called the Bible Literacy Project released a

new school textbook in an attempt to introduce students to the Bible

without specifically endorsing Christianity. The book, which will be

made available for schools to order for the 2006-07 school year,

describes much of biblical history, but stops short of citing as fact

-- qualifying the statements with "tradition states" or "some

Christians believe." The text also describes biblical allusions in

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literature, language and history. The guidelines for the book were

endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers, the National Assn.

of Evangelicals, the Council on Islamic Education and the People for

the American Way Foundation, as well as the First Amendment Center,

though none have seen the text yet. Does the new textbook go far

enough in teaching the Bible? Does it go too far?f7

Aren't churches and synagogues doing a good enough job teaching

the Bible?

I believe the Bible can be referenced in a public school classroom

without doing violence to the Establishment Clause. But can the

sectarian book of sectarian books be taught in a neutral manner --

academically and objectively -- by teachers whose attachment to

sacred text is on a different level than their enjoyment of

Shakespeare, without subjecting students to undue religious

influence? Is this not another weapon in the arsenal of those who

seek to insinuate religion into secular education? Isn't this agenda

related to introducing Intelligent Design as a stalking horse for

creationism?

Yes, the Bible contains history, but it is sacred history. Yes, it

features magnificent poetry, but it is verse that extols God.

The Bible is about sin against God and redemption by God,

rebellion against God and return to God. It is about establishing a

sacred society whose foundation is the God who created all things,

about reward bestowed by God for obedience and punishments meted out

by God for infractions, about the blessings of heaven and the

deprivations of hell. The Bible's claim for itself is the truth.

Is this the stuff of secular education? Does it not provide an

invitation for either proselytizing by believers or sneers by

nonbelievers? Does it not open the door to abuse?

Worse yet, wouldn't presenting it as simply another course

requirement only elicit what other requirements often produce: a

yawn?

"We turn now, to the Bible, another in our series of boring

history texts."

"Please open our next book of poetry, the Bible."

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