Kentucky governor Matt Bevin recently signed into law Kentucky House Bill 128 that allows public high schools to offer Bible literacy electives as part of a social studies course, if they so choose. These courses must maintain “religious neutrality” and are designed to “focus on the historical impact and literary style from texts of the Old Testament or New Testament era, including the Hebrew Scriptures.”
Republican state representative D. J. Johnson, who sponsored and penned the bill, says,
In recent years, it has become fashionable to try to ignore the fact that the Bible did, in fact, play an important role in the development of not only the United States of America but much of western civilization. . . . This trend is denying students the opportunity to fully understand this fact.
Whether one believes the Bible is the inerrant word of God, or merely a centuries-old book, the influence of the Bible on our society, particularly during the framing of our Constitution, is undeniable. . . . We owe it to our students to give them the opportunity to learn about the historical significance of the Bible in our society (emphasis added).
It’s great to see government schools offering students the opportunity to see how the Bible has impacted our Western culture, particularly America.
It’s great to see government schools offering students the opportunity to see how the Bible has impacted our Western culture, particularly America. By the way, you only have to visit the United States capitol, Washington, D.C., to see the influence of the Bible in America’s history. You will see Bible verses on various famous buildings and monuments. In fact, the 10 Commandments are on display in the Supreme Court building.
Of course, this bill is not without its critics. The (anti-Christian) American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Kentucky says, “We will continue to closely follow and monitor the implementation of the courses.” The ACLU communications director claims they investigate Establishment Clause violations on a regular basis across Kentucky. She said,
The issues in recent years have ranged from religious displays in public schools around Easter, teacher and coach-led prayer during sporting events, and in one instance a school science or history field trip to the Creation Museum. . . . Our most recent major investigation involving religion in public schools was a few years back when we looked into the distribution of Gideons Bibles during class.
The ACLU is more than happy to have the religion of atheism and naturalism exclusively taught in public schools and imposed on millions of children, but they are not happy about the potential for a Bible literacy class or anything even remotely Christian. The ACLU, like the Freedom from Religion Foundation, wants atheism to be the state religion and to have this belief system imposed on all public school children.
Nate Kellum, chief counsel for the Center for Religious Expression, sent me this regarding this new Kentucky bill:
By all appearances, the law is solidly constitutional. It empowers schools to decide for themselves whether to include elective Bible literacy courses (emphasis added). The law also requires religious neutrality, properly enforcing the balance between endorsing religion and showing hostility toward it.
The Supreme Court has upheld such biblical instruction as appropriate. "It certainly may be said that the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities. Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment." Sch. Dist. of Abington Twp., Pa v. Schempp, 374 U.S. 203, 225 (1963). See Epperson v. State of Ark., 393 U.S. 97, 106 (1968) (reaching same conclusion).
The Bible has had more influence on Western civilization than any other book.
Indeed, AiG’s very own speaker and author Bryan Osborne taught Bible history for 13 years in a public school setting in Tennessee. There’s nothing unconstitutional about a Bible literacy or Bible history class. After all, the Bible has had more influence on Western civilization than any other book.
Regarding the ACLU of Kentucky’s attempts to keep public school students from visiting the Creation Museum (the Freedom From Religion Foundation has also tried to keep public school students from coming to our Ark Encounter), Nate Kellum and Mike Johnson, formerly an attorney with Freedom Guard and now a congressman, sent me this:
School officials are not asked to endorse as truth everything they see, and they don't. (Just as they don't endorse as truth the content of every class video, or stage production and cultural experience in other field trips.) The Ark is merely an awesome opportunity to give kids exposure to one point of view in a very vivid way. That is in no way unlawful, and no court has ever said it is.
Public schools are free to take students on field trips to any place they find educationally beneficial, which can include parks, museums, and even churches, that have religious connotations. The Constitution demands the State be neutral—not hostile—toward religion. To deny students the unique opportunity to see and experience a full-scale model of Noah's Ark—just because its existence is described in the Bible—would be decidedly hostile.
You can read more about the public schools’ rights to bring their students to our two world-class attractions in this article, “Public Schools Visiting the Ark Encounter?”
Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,
This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.