Bible Schooled

After the jump, courtesy the Texas Freedom Network, is SMU associate professor and chair of the school's Department of Religious Studies Mark Chancey's statement concerning the Texas State Board of Education's decision today to adopt vague standards when it comes to teaching elective Bible course in public high school classrooms. In short, the state's decided to let individual school districts design their own courses beginning in the 2008-'09 school year. Chancey, needless to say, doesn't think the Board of Education made the right call. Not that he doesn't like the Bible, of course. He just says he has a pretty good idea how most school districts will choose to teach it. --Robert Wilonsky

Statement from Dr. Mark Chancey, associate professor and chair of the Department of Religious Studies, Southern Methodist University in Dallas

It is unfortunate that the board neglected to develop content specific guidelines for public school Bible classes. These courses can be a wonderfully enriching educational experience, but they must be taught in a way that is academically, legally and ethically appropriate. Teachers need and want resources to help them do just that. Instead, the state board of education is sending them into a minefield without map.

We have looked through thousands of pages of course materials from Texas Bible classes. We know for a fact what is already happening in most of them.

We know for a fact that most courses promote Christian beliefs over those of other religions. Some classes promote creation science. Some classes denigrate Judaism. Some classes explicitly encourage students to convert to Christianity or to adopt Christian devotional practices. This is all well documented, and the board knows it. And all of these classes were taught under the very standards that the state board of education approved today. The board approved the status quo, and approving the status quo means approving the widespread teaching of Bible classes from a conservative Christian theological perspective in public schools.

Using public schools to promote some religious views over others is not religious freedom. And it's not constitutional. I¹m not a prophet, but I predict that school districts will suffer because of the board¹s actions.

The Good Book deserves better than it got today. And so does the state of Texas.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky