FRANKFORT, Ky. – A bill to create an elective social studies class on the Bible in Kentucky public schools was unanimously approved by the Senate Education Committee on Thursday.
"What this does is to allow Bible literacy courses in the form of a social studies elective," its sponsor Sen. Robin Webb, D-Grayson, told the committee. "This bill would not have religious connotation as much as a historical connotation."
Senate Bill 278 would direct the Kentucky Department of Education to write regulations for the classes on the Bible that local school districts can choose to offer as an elective in grades nine through 12.
The bill says students shall not be required "to use a specific translation" of the Bible for the class. And it says the course must "follow applicable law and all federal and state guidelines in maintaining religious neutrality and accommodating the diverse religious views, tradition and perspectives of students."
Webb and Jack Westwood, a former state senator who now lobbies for the Family Foundation, both testified to the Bible's importance in history, literature, art and other aspects of culture and society.
"Senate Bill 278 does not teach the Bible...It's not proselytising," Westwood said. " What it does is teach about the Bible."
Robert Boston, director of communications for the Washington-based Americans United for the Separation of church and State, said in a phone interview, that such bills can pass constitutional muster but can raise problems when the classes begin.
"If it increases Bible literacy, that's fine because of the Bible's profound impact on society," Boston said. "But you have to be careful that it doesn't elevate one interpretation of the Bible over others."
The bill now goes to the full Senate for a vote.
Reporter Tom Loftus can be reached at (502) 875-5136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.