March 1, 2013
Burnett-Downey Urge Bible Courses in Schools, But Report Finds Problems
(UPDATED) Arkansas bill aims to allow 'academic study of the Bible,' but Texas report says serious problems undermine growth.
Update (Mar. 5): Author and columnist Jonathan Merritt says Christians should not support teaching the Bible in public schools, speaking out against "The Bible" producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey. Merritt argues that Bible curricula in public schools would most likely use non-literal interpretations of the Bible—the opposite result of what most Christians actually want.
Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, a powerhouse TV couple known for their Christian faith, advocate in the Wall Street Journal today that public schools in the United States should "encourage, perhaps even mandate, the teaching of the Bible in public schools as a primary document of Western civilization."
Their op-ed, which comes as they prepare to launch a 10-part TV miniseries on the Bible, also comes as a new report says serious problems in elective Bible courses in Texas are undermining the growth of such classes in public schools.
The report, authored by Southern Methodist University professor Mark Chancey on behalf of the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, shows that the number of schools teaching elective Bible courses has doubled since the Texas legislate implemented HB 1287, which requires in-service training for teachers of public school Bible courses, in 2007. But according to the report, new problems in the courses range from "factual errors to blatant religious bias and even discredited claims about the Bible and race."
TFNEF president Kathy Miller says these problems can be traced back to faulty enforcement of HB 1287.
"If the state isn’t going to enforce its own guidelines and fund even basic teacher training, maybe we should leave instruction about the Bible to religious congregations who will treat it with the respect it deserves," Miller said in a statement.
Six other states currently offer elective Bible courses in public schools, and Arkansas is considering a similar measure that would allow public schools to teach a "nonsectarian, nonreligious academic study of the Bible."