There's a growing controversy in Texas over Bible courses that are being taught in the state's public schools. Texas is not alone, as the Bible curriculum is also being taught in public schools in 36 other states. While some parents are thrilled the Bible has returned to the classroom, others are furious and say public schools are not Sunday schools. “DaySide” delved into the issue with a fair and balanced debate Tuesday. Click in the box to the right to watch the video.
For more on this controversial subject, “DaySide” producer Michael Sorrentino questioned the president of the Texas Freedom Network (search), Kathy Miller, over her group’s criticism of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (search).
DAYSIDE: First and foremost, is there harm in elective Bible courses being offered in public schools?
KATHY MILLER: Bible literacy courses can be an enriching way to teach children about history and literature, and we fully support the right of schools to teach such courses. But the curriculum must not be used to turn public schools into Sunday schools. Devotional instruction belongs in houses of worship and with families. Neither the government nor public schools should interfere with the right of parents to pass on their religious values to their children — that's the basis of religious freedom in this country.
DAYSIDE: In relation to history, does religion not play a role? More specifically, isn't much of American history based upon the religious beliefs of its founders?
MILLER: This isn't a debate about the role of religion in American history and society today. There's no question about the importance of religion and religious freedom in this country. This is a debate about a blatantly sectarian public school curriculum that interferes with the freedom of parents to practice their own faiths and pass on their own religious values to their children.
DAYSIDE: If the local school board approves these courses, as well as the town, what is the harm in offering them?
MILLER: Parents have the right to expect that any course taught in their public schools is based on sound scholarship and is nonsectarian. This curriculum fails to meet even basic academic standards that parents expect of their children's schools. Even worse, Dr. Mark Chancey's (search) report reveals a curriculum that attempts to persuade students to adopt views that are held primarily within certain conservative Protestant circles, but not among most Roman Catholics (search), other Christians, and Jews, and certainly not within the scholarly community.
DAYSIDE: The National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools argues that not teaching this information is censorship, and that the Texas Freedom Network is using this as a means to push their left-wing agenda. Your response?
MILLER: Promoting religious freedom is hardly a left-wing agenda. Furthermore, the Texas Freedom Network includes more than 600 clergy from a broad array of faith perspectives, including Christian, Jewish and Muslim (search). This isn't about censoring information or academic freedom. This case is about religious freedom and an attempt by the National Council and its supporters to use a public school curriculum to interfere with that freedom.
DAYSIDE: Finally, in your view, what is an effective way to teach this curriculum to students who would like to learn about it?
MILLER: Any study of the Bible must be based on sound scholarship and must not promote a particular sectarian perspective, and such curricula are available. The National Council's curriculum fails both tests and without substantial changes would not be appropriate for use in any public school. Even private schools should be wary of using a curriculum based on such poor scholarship.
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