Bible passages could join school curriculum

  • Posted: Thursday, February 28, 2013 12:45 a.m.
    UPDATED: Thursday, February 28, 2013 12:46 a.m.

SALISBURY — High school students could get credit for Bible study if a new bill sponsored by a local senator comes to fruition.

Sen. Andrew Brock said Wednesday the elective course would function as both a history and religion class. The bill would allow local school boards to offer students the electives for credit on the Old Testament, the New Testament or a combination of both.

“That document is very important to the founding of this nation, and it’s an important document to a lot of people,” Brock said, “whether they think of it as an important religious document or an important historical document.”

A Republican who represents Rowan and Davie counties, Brock said high school students face a lot of questions and “this class will answer questions they have.”

The class is offered as an elective and will not be required as part of the curriculum.

Filed Tuesday, the bill is currently in a Senate committee.

While civil libertarians worry about religious courses at taxpayer-supported schools violating the Constitutional separation of church and state, primary sponsor Sen. Stan Bingham said Wednesday he doesn’t see a problem.

“This is an elective,” said Bingham (R-Davidson). “I don’t think it’s out of order for a student to ask a school system to take an elective in the Bible. It also would not be out of order for the same student to say I want to take a course and study the Quran, or the Jewish religion, or whatever religion you wish to pick.”

Bingham’s bill, as written, only names the Bible as an option. A dozen lawmakers in the GOP-controlled Senate have signed on as co-sponsors, including three Democrats.

Sarah Preston, policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union-North Carolina, said it is notoriously difficult to teach the Bible inside a public school in a manner consistent with the First Amendment, which can put educators in a thorny situation.

“Classes that teach the Bible have to be conducted in a way that does not promote or disparage religion, or alienate students with different beliefs. But because religious belief is such a personal issue, we believe it’s a topic best left to the student’s parents, and not government bureaucrats or school officials.”

When asked if he thought the bill infringed on the separation of church and state, Brock said “absolutely not.”

“I think, if anything, the atheists that are trying to take out any type of religious expression is actually establishing an atheist belief,” Brock said.

If the bill passes, Brock said, students would have an opportunity to learn more about the Bible, regardless of their religious affiliation.

“The class is an elective. You can choose to go to it or not,” he said. “I think you might have some people that don’t believe in the Holy Bible, but take the class for informational purposes.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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