FRANKENMUTH, Mich. – A rural school district will not offer a religious group's Bible class as an elective high school course, ending a yearlong debate.
The school board in Frankenmuth (search), about 75 miles north of Detroit, decided with one dissenting vote Monday to not offer the "Bible As Literature and History" class at Frankenmuth High School, following the recommendation of school Superintendent Michael Murphy.
The proposed class would have been based on materials from the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (search) of Greensboro, N.C.
Murphy said the class was not academically rigorous enough and said current classes in English, art and history, already include studies on how the Bible affects American society.
"It goes beyond talking about religion and becomes faith-based," Murphy said.
The district has about 1,200 students, 500 of them at the high school.
Murphy said the rejection was not based on the threat of lawsuits, and school board members said the decision did not rule out future consideration of similar classes.
Gary Pickelman was the only dissenting board member.
"Why is it that students can't read the Bible in school when prisoners can in prison? Why do I have to swear on a Bible in court, when the Ten Commandments cannot be displayed on federal grounds? Our society is messed up," he said.
The proposed class had raised the issue of whether the curriculum would have conformed to a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court decision barring public schools from indoctrinating children in religion but upholding the right to teach about religion.
At a meeting year ago, backers had submitted petitions signed by about 1,200 parents and students asking for the course. About 100 people filled a middle school cafeteria, with shouts breaking out at one point between an avowed atheist and a course supporter.