Classroom Controversy

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," August 1, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: A school board in Texas voting unanimously to add an elective, underline elective, Bible study course to their high school curriculum. Not all the students' parents are pleased. The course has sparked a heating response from national groups over its constitutionality.

So, is there a place for the Bible in a public school, even if it is an elective?

Joining us now is Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, and Steve Crampton, chief counsel for the American Family Association Center For Law and Policy.

So Kathy, you first. Obviously, we know there are problems over the Bible in classes if the students are required to study it. What is wrong with an elective?

KATHY MILLER, TEXAS FREEDOM NETWORK: Well, I have no problem with an elective course on the Bible and literature and history if it is nonsectarian and academically rigorous. The problem is that the curriculum that is being promoted by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (search), that we released a report on Monday, is neither. The academic rigor is very suspect. In fact, it doesn't meet academic standards that parents want for their children and teachers demand of their children.

And, more importantly, it's...

GIBSON: Yes. But, Kathy, if the parents object, they can tell their kids, do not take that course. What is the problem if parents want their kids to take that course?

MILLER: Well, unfortunately, the sectarian nature of the course is hidden. The curriculum is not widely available. It's not posted on the National Council's Web site. And they claim it is nonsectarian.


So, Steve, is this then a ruse, the Bible posing as history and literature? By the way, I have had a few very fundamentalist, evangelical preachers in Texas telling me they don't want teachers teaching the Bible as anything but history and literature. They will take care of the religion in church on Sunday. What is this course? And is there a ruse under way, as Kathy suggests?

STEVE CRAMPTON, AMERICAN FAMILY ASSOCIATION: John, absolutely no ruse under way here.

What you have is a small group of liberal academics selected by a radical left-wing organization, like Texas Freedom Network (search), that happens to find some fault in our curriculum. On the other side of the equation, you have dozens of constitutional scholars. You have curriculum development specialists, hundreds of school board attorneys, not to mention the school board members themselves.

GIBSON: OK, Steve, let's cut to the chase. What is in the course?

CRAMPTON: What is in the course is the fundamentals of the Bible, what is necessary for every student in America to understand the oldest, most widely read and arguably most influencing book ever printed in human history.

GIBSON: Is it required to...

CRAMPTON: That is what is in the book.

GIBSON: Does the course require students to believe?

CRAMPTON: Absolutely not, John.

In fact, we carefully instruct teachers not take dogmatic positions on any issue. What we do is really raise questions and we let students decide for themselves.

GIBSON: So, Kathy, what is wrong with that?


MILLER: Yes, John?

GIBSON: Kathy, what is wrong with that?

MILLER: Actually, there is nothing wrong with teaching a Bible course that isn't sectarian. What is being portrayed here is inaccurate.

The report that was released Monday by a Biblical scholar from Southern Methodist University — let's be clear, this is not a left-wing scholarship report that we have released — but from Southern Methodist University, and endorsed by and embraced by an interfaith group of clergy today representing Baptists, Catholics and Jews, who do not want this curriculum taught in their schools. Excuse me.

Basically, we are saying, first and foremost, don't put forth as fact things that are beliefs based on faith.

GIBSON: All right.

MILLER: And that sectarian nature interferes...


GIBSON: Kathy Miller, I get it.

Steve Crampton, I know you two are going to fight it out. We will see how this sorts out once you get into the courtrooms, and I know you will.

Thanks to both of you.

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