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Old 09-17-2006, 09:57 AM   #1
celedine169
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Default Texas Bible courses: Turning public schools into the local church

Originally Posted by article
Inside the First Amendment

By Charles C. Haynes
First Amendment Center senior scholar
09.17.06
Sunday school classes are supposed to be on Sunday, but in some Texas public schools every day is the Lord’s Day.

According to a study released this week, “Reading, Writing and Religion: Teaching the Bible in Texas Public Schools,” most of the elective Bible courses currently offered in 25 Texas school districts are taught as “religious and devotional classes that promote one faith perspective over all others.”

The study was commissioned by the Texas Freedom Network, a civil liberties group that describes itself as a “nonpartisan, grassroots organization of more than 23,000 religious and community leaders.”

The revelation that so many Bible courses in Texas schools violate the First Amendment has national implications. It turns out that many of the offending courses are based on materials disseminated by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools – a group that claims its curriculum is now used in 365 school districts in 37 states. It’s hard to substantiate these numbers because the council won’t reveal where most of these courses are taught.

Even if that number is overstated, it’s very likely many of the Bible courses in other states are also unconstitutional. In some states, especially in the South, homegrown Bible courses are taught in public schools with little accountability and no oversight.

Under the guise of supporting academic study of the Bible, the council has been actively promoting Bible electives in public schools for more than a decade. But its approach is anything but “academic.” In a study published in 2005, the Texas Freedom Network found that the council’s curriculum advocates “a narrow sectarian perspective” and is filled with “shoddy research and blatant errors.” Although the council made some cosmetic changes in apparent response to criticism, the new study argues that the curriculum remains “deeply flawed and inappropriate.”

The author of both studies, biblical scholar Mark Chancey of Southern Methodist University, has nothing against Bible electives in public schools. In fact, he believes that taught within clear constitutional and educational guidelines such courses “can be an excellent and desirable way to help students understand the unique importance of the Bible in history and literature.”

But Chancey discovered that very few Texas districts with Bible courses applied the First Amendment ground rules. Most of the classes are taught by teachers with no academic training in religious or biblical studies and most present only a fundamentalist Protestant view of the Bible. In some districts, local clergy teach the course. Many of the teachers use instructional materials recommended by the Bible council, including videos that teach “creation science.”

Some of the Texas districts go so far as to teach students that the Bible is divinely inspired and “anyone who reads the Bible with open mind and heart is convinced that the Bible is God’s word to man” to quote a workbook used in one district. This is faith formation — the responsibility of families and religious communities. It has no place in a public school.

In a constitutional Bible course, students would study in an objective, nonsectarian manner how various Jewish and Christian groups interpret the Bible. They’d learn something about contemporary biblical scholarship, and discover how the Bible has influenced history and culture. (For more guidance on what is and isn’t constitutional, see (The Bible and Public Schools, published by the First Amendment Center and endorsed by 21 religious, civil liberties and educational organizations.)

According to the report, three Texas school districts do manage to get it right. One high school teaches a course focused on biblical influences on art, music, literature and politics in Western civilization (using a pre-publication version of the Bible Literacy Project’s new textbook, The Bible and Its Influence). Another school offers “Literature of the Bible,” using The Bible As/In Literature, a textbook published some years ago that has selections from the Bible along with readings from secular literature with biblical references and images.

But the Christian Right groups advocating Bible courses aren’t interested in the academic study of the Bible; they want the Bible taught their way or no way. And despite reports exposing their efforts as unconstitutional, stealth attempts to get their materials into public schools across the country continue unabated.

These efforts to push illegal Bible courses not only undermine religious freedom — they are also bad for religion. The last thing any Bible-believing person should want is state-sponsored Sunday-school classes.

If history is any guide, we know that the surest way to destroy authentic faith is to turn it over to the government.

Charles C. Haynes is senior scholar at the First Amendment Center, 1101 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, Va. 22209. E-mail: chaynes@freedomforum.org.
The best part of this is that the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools won't reveal where their curriculum is being used, because they know their coursework is unconstitutional. I wonder what happens to the students in these classes if they ask a question about something not covered by the fundamentalist protestant interpretation.
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Old 09-17-2006, 12:30 PM   #2
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What? They are using the schools to force... well not force... but offer, elective Bible study. How rude.
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Old 09-17-2006, 01:05 PM   #3
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I woud like to know... what age are these students? Are these like State colleges/universities? Or are these like highschools? Personally, if it's Collegiate level, I don't care all that much lol.
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Old 09-17-2006, 01:13 PM   #4
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They're elective courses, right? As in...not required?
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Old 09-17-2006, 03:53 PM   #5
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god forbid that people get offered the choice of taking a relgious class at their option.
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Old 09-17-2006, 04:09 PM   #6
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Well, specifically, I think at a collegiate level, there should be a variety of diffferent religious classes offered, so this is to be expected.
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Old 09-17-2006, 04:23 PM   #7
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At a colliegate level I would expect there to be radically religious schools, honestly.
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Old 09-17-2006, 04:24 PM   #8
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It's being used in Texas school districts, so I would guess everything from elementary to secondary schools. I have no problem with offering religion classes, even specifically bible classes, but presenting only one interpretation is state-sponsored religion, regardless of whether it's an elective or not.

“religious and devotional classes that promote one faith perspective over all others.” being taught in a government run institution runs counter to the First Amendment. How would you feel if a class on witchcraft were being offered as an elective?
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Old 09-17-2006, 06:26 PM   #9
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Wouldn't have a problem with it, as long as it were an elective.
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Old 09-17-2006, 08:46 PM   #10
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a class on witchcraft would bei nteresting... I wish they had offered a more diverse selection of classes when I was in highschool
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Old 09-17-2006, 09:05 PM   #11
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witch craft isn't hard.

you need a pentagram since they love to use it. you need lots of women chanting sometimes nakid.

and a really bad script involving revenge for past slights.
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Old 09-17-2006, 10:21 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by SupportTank
you need lots of women chanting sometimes nakid
Hells ya! Count me in!
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Old 09-17-2006, 11:35 PM   #13
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Harry potter is probably one of the most talked about books in todays world in the schools.............. is that unconstitutional, I mean SOME people could consider it FORCING the study of witchcraft on students.

I recall a post where I believe it was Bumbles that said parents are the ones responsible for their kids education, if this is even HALF true then elective classes on the bible are not even close to wrong.

AS far as unconstitutional..... where exactly in your constitution does it say freedom FROM religion?
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Old 09-18-2006, 05:08 AM   #14
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Generally, there are no elective classes in elementary schools. They also don't normally refer to universities as public schools.

The class is an elective, which means it is not mandatory. What's the big deal?
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Old 09-18-2006, 07:29 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by Axgar
talked about books in todays world in the schools
The students talking about a book really has nothing to do with the school. It's not like it's on mandatory reading lists... oh, and plenty of parents did get mad about the book. A large group tried to have it yanked from the shelves of libraries because they said it encouraged withcraft. Let's not act like both sides don't overreact.
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Old 09-18-2006, 12:05 PM   #16
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Im not saying some people didn't say something, Im saying Harry Potter in most cases was allowed to be shall we say examined (I dont want to use the word taught because I don't think it was being used as anything but a reading tool) while the bible is being outlawed....... seems to be that IF the bible is BS like some of the people contend then what does it hurt to use it as reading material?

I just don't see why the education system cannot allow elective classes of any sort if it has some educational value to the student and if its economically feasable, Go ahead and teach witchcraft, hell at least the normal students know the fruitcakes to stay away from, then again maybe I shouldnt use the word normal, Im not even sure what normal is anymore.
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Old 09-18-2006, 02:42 PM   #17
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if the bible was taught as a work of fiction then it could be taught =p
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Old 09-18-2006, 03:19 PM   #18
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Actually I think the evolution of the Bible is an EXCELLENT tool for showing how language has changed, how meanings of words have changed and adapted, and how historical settings can shape writings, both in the first version of the Bible and in subsequent translations.

Classes like that are taught at private universities, it is a shame they arent taught in other schools. They would help give much more literary appreciation for the Bible, and it would educate people as to the historical context and evolving interpretation and meaning of the text. I think its extremely interesting how some fundamental (in the literal meaning, not as in the religious groups) religious concepts that are predominate in many perceptions or beliefs ABOUT religion are the products or biproduct of linguistic discrepencies. Rather fascinating that some people have created religious constructs, inadvertantly through mistranslation of text. Anyway I think such studies present a WONDERFUL opportunity for ANYONE to understand a major world religion. I would take the class, if offered, as well as one on other religious texts.
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Old 09-18-2006, 04:33 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by celedine169

“religious and devotional classes that promote one faith perspective over all others.” being taught in a government run institution runs counter to the First Amendment. How would you feel if a class on witchcraft were being offered as an elective?


Originally Posted by The U.S. Bill or Rights
Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Perhaps civics might be a better use of the schools time?

It runs contrary to the notion there there should be separation of church and state. The first amendment specifically says that it's not the Federal governments business what religion Texans choose to practice. Modern interpretations DO broaden it to be more intrusive, but even then it's stating that the government not limit the discussion or practice or religion.

No mention is made requiring the government to provide for other religious viewpoints not already under discussion.

You could make the argument that government should not sponsor religion and you'd be right. It's not a free speech issue.

Free speach doesn't mean you have the right to never hear certain things you dislike said. In fact, it's a bit more the opposite.
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Old 09-18-2006, 04:48 PM   #20
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Ahh...you didn't include a link to the site.

http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/....aspx?id=17390


Haynes is not against teaching the bible. He's against teaching the bible while not using the book he's helping to sell.

http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/....aspx?id=15185

He may be correct. But looking closer he's not so much critiquing the Texas school system as he is ranting about how inferior a rivals choice of biblical curriculum was. He actually wants the bible taught, he merely wants them to use the Bible Literacy Project.
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Old 09-18-2006, 08:04 PM   #21
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Aj- Don't overlook what could be a crucial element : money.

While I think the class could be pretty cool.. argument could easily be made that the classes are paid for (not by choice) with tax money. this is the same argument pro-lifers use, and it's not completely without merit. However, one could specifically point to an event (the establishment of the class... done with tax dollars) and say that the government is establishing/sponsoring/supporting/maintaining a vehicle of relgious dispersion.

Although I don't mind it, there is a very compelling legal argument against it, imo. It's very easy to establish sponsorship when there is a budget item specifically for a program like that, without which the program/religious dispersion would cease.
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Old 09-19-2006, 02:03 AM   #22
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What about parents who don't want their kids being taught that evolution is how we got here? I mean that is not taught as a fictional learning tool is is taught as fact and therefore discounting a parents upbringing of their child, in effect they are telling the children of Christian parents that the morals and religious beliefs their parents are teaching them are BS..............

Its funny noone has a problem with burning the bible but if you burned and of Charles Darwins books like origin of the species or the voyage of the beagle they would want you put in jail.
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Old 09-19-2006, 07:15 AM   #23
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It'd be interesting to know how many parents tell their children to take part in those elective courses, hehe.
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Old 09-19-2006, 08:16 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by Axgar
I mean that is not taught as a fictional learning tool is is taught as fact
I am pretty sure it is taught as the latest accepted theory. It is certainly not a fact, at least it wasn't taught that way when I was in school. However, if someone has a problem with a proponderance of evidence supportinga theory being taught as an evidence supported theory, because somehow they feel it detracts from thier decision to ignore empirical evidence, or somehow impose an either/or mentality... well that is thier choice as a parent. It is, however, unreasonable to expect others to ignore empiracle evidence in favor of unsubstantiated claims.
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Old 09-19-2006, 08:41 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Everclear
I am pretty sure it is taught as the latest accepted theory. It is certainly not a fact, at least it wasn't taught that way when I was in school. However, if someone has a problem with a proponderance of evidence supportinga theory being taught as an evidence supported theory, because somehow they feel it detracts from thier decision to ignore empirical evidence, or somehow impose an either/or mentality... well that is thier choice as a parent. It is, however, unreasonable to expect others to ignore empiracle evidence in favor of unsubstantiated claims.
But Macro-evolution ISN'T supported by evidence, nor is Spontaneous Generation. Both of which are taught as the only "theory" that's viable. By exclusion, these are taught as fact.
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