The Bible in Public Schools: Constitutional or Unconstitutional?

Reading, writing, arithmetic, and Bible? Should the Bible be taught in public school? This is an issue that our nation has faced for years. The Bible used to be a major part in the schools. Some have claimed this is a violation of rights. However, in a typical public school curriculum children are learning about mythology, Catholicism, Buddhism, and many other religions, because they are an important part of the subjects being taught. If the Bible were taught in a similar fashion it would not violate anyone’s rights. The Bible is just as important. Lack of biblical knowledge could be a huge educational disadvantage. So, is teaching the Bible unconstitutional? The answer is no. Not teaching the Bible is what is unconstitutional.

What about “Separation of Church and State? What about pushing off the Christian religion on innocent public-school children? What about offending non-believers who reject God, the Bible, and any form of religious morals? Why should the Christian ‘minority’ interest be given a preeminent place in a public school? These are all very good questions that our public school curriculum leaders, superintendents, and school board members must know the answers to. (Simonds, 1996). The Supreme Court has ruled that teaching the Bible may be done in the classroom as long as it is not part of religious worship, but as part of a secular program. (Simonds, 1996). Dr. Robert Simonds, president of Citizens for Excellence in Education, has been a public school teacher, principal, professor, and administrator for over thirty-five years. In his article he states, ” As one possessing a Masters degree in history, I can tell you that no qualified historian would dispute the simple fact that the Bible is not only a great documented history book of man’s beginnings, right up to the modern era, but it is the ONLY documented ancient history account available to mankind on much of that long 4,000 year period B.C. The Bible is not only “appropriate,” but necessary for students to have a complete historical picture of mankind” (Simonds, 1996). In Supreme Court case Abington vs. Schempp the court stated, “the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities” (U.S. Supreme Court, 1963). Study of the Bible when presented objectively may not be affected consistently with the First Amendment. (U.S. Supreme Court, 1963).

Another Supreme Court case outline clearly ” that the First Amendment does not forbid all mention of religion in public schools; it is the advancement or inhibition of religion that is prohibited” (U.S. Supreme Court, 1973). However the ACLU argues that there are some who are hostile to any religion in public schools and therefore the Bible as history and literature should be excluded. ( Simonds, 1996). The Circuit Court case decision of Florey stated that it “would literally be impossible to develop a public-school curriculum that did not in some way affect the religious or non-religious sensibilities of some of the students and their parents” (8th Circuit, 1980). Teaching the Bible will equip students with literary forms and symbols in the Bible that are constantly refereed to in art, give the students understanding of the influence of the Bible on history, law community, a and cultural life, give insight into the founding fathers’ worldviews taken from the Bible promoting human rights, women’s rights, and social justice, provide knowledge of the Middle-Eastern history, conflicts, geography, and religions, and teach students how to learn and use multiple and complex reference skills. These objectives will provide constitutional conformity.

Students have been denied their constitutional rights long enough. And they have not been given all the facts of history and of the influence of the Bible. No one could rightly claim to be educated today, or to be a true intellectual, who had never read this powerful and exciting book that had transformed innumerable lives, influenced kings and presidents, and guided entire nations. Most students do not realize that Thomas Jefferson was the first President of the Washington D.C. school board, which adopted the Bible as a primary reader. (Simonds, 1996). Our U.S. laws are based upon our constituion, which proclaims its entire jurisprudence system to be based upon the Bible and the Ten Commandments. Our children are held, by law, to all our U.S. laws that are derived of the Bible, yet denied the knowledge of the source of our own constitution and national jurisprudence controlling all of society’s laws.

Students need to know the Bible to fully understand numerous religious references in Western literature. The complete works of Shakespeare have more than 1,300 biblical references. “Call me Ishmael,” the introductory line of Herman Melville’s nautical tale Moby Dick, is lost on most students who do not know that Ishmael was a famous castaway in the Bible. (Andrews, 2005). Classic and modern literature is ripe with biblical references. Charles C. Haynes, a scholar at The Freedom Forum’s First Amendment Center said “Americans have a long and bitter history of fighting over the role of the Bible in the classroom” Haynes, 2005). According to Haynes, who has worked in partnership with the Bible Literacy Project, teaching academic Bible courses is not in violation of the First amendment. (Haynes, 2005).

So should the Bible be taught in public schools? If we care about education then the answer would be yes. The Bible is a major part of history, literature, art, and so much more. We are depriving our children from getting a full education when we take the Bible out of their everyday learning in schools. Teaching the Bible is not unconstitutional. Our constitution came from the Bible. As long as it is taught is an objective fashion the Bible can be taught without violating anyone’s rights to freedom of religion.

References

8th Circuit (1980) Florey vs. Sioux Falls school district, 619F. 2d 1311, 1314.
Andrews, Helena (2005) Ignorance of Bible Stifles Education of American Students. Retrieved
May 24, 2005 from www.beliefnet.com.
Committee for Public Education vs. Nyquist (1973) 413 U.S. 756, 788
Haynes, Charles C. (2005) Religious Liberty In Public Schools retrieved April 29, 2005 from
FirstAmendmentCenter.org.
Simonds, Robert Dr. (Sept. 1996) Should the Bible Be Taught in Public School? : Institute for
Creation Research. Retrieved May 24, 2005 from www.google.com.
U.S. Supreme Court (1963) School District of Abington Township vs. Schempp 374, U.S. 225.
U.S. Supreme Court (1980) Stone vs. Graham, 499 U.S. 39, 42

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