State Little Help with Bible Classes

December 22, 2006

Author: Bridget Gutierrez

Source: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia public high schools may offer classes on the Bible next fall, but they'll get few guidelines from the state on how to ensure their lessons do not promote religion.

A new law requires the State Board of Education to create two optional, non-devotional classes on the history and literature of the Old and New Testaments and leaves the details for the State Board of Education to decide. But a proposal from the state Department of Education indicates that most of the decisions will be left to local school systems — which will be given little information about appropriate lessons, classroom materials or teacher qualifications.

"The important thing is the history and literature of the Bible is taught, and it not be taught for indoctrination," said state Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams (R-Lyons), who sponsored the bill authorizing the classes.

"There are some good materials out there and hopefully they'll find those," added Williams, who is an adviser to a North Carolina group that produces a Bible-based curriculum for public schools. "I'm sure people who sell books will be calling on them."

Other states, including Florida, have offered similar courses in public schools, but Georgia's law is believed to be the first to mandate that the state board create them. School systems here, however, don't have to offer the classes because they're not part of the course work students need to graduate.

In the past, some Georgia systems have expressed interest in carrying classes devoted to the Bible, but it's unclear how many might try them out.