The Kentucky State Senate recently passed a bill that would require the Kentucky Board of Education to “to establish an elective social studies course on the Hebrew Scriptures, Old Testament of the Bible, the New Testament, or a combination” for public schools. The class would teach students about the content of the Bible, particularly as it relates to understanding history, literature, and art. Before the bill becomes law, it must be approved by the Kentucky House of Representatives, where a similar bill died last year. Hopefully it will fail to pass the House, as the implications of the bill are troublesome.
While courses teaching about the Bible are already allowed, this legislation (and these kinds of courses in general) walks dangerously close to the line separating religion and government and raises a number of concerns. Although the course would be entirely optional, a class that focuses exclusively on the Bible seems to promote one religion over others, which would violate the First Amendment.
Additionally, with courses like the one proposed by the legislation, it is hard to ensure that teachers would teach the subject in an unbiased way. The bill’s sponsor, Joe Bowen, states that “what this bill provides for is a social studies course. It’s education, it’s not indoctrination.” However, it could easily morph into a religious class. Instead, it would be more worthwhile to teach an elective course on world religions or comparative religion, rather than a course on the Bible and its impact on western civilization. The constitutionality and educational value of such a course would be far less questionable.