Staff and Wire Reports
OKLAHOMA CITY -- High schools across the state could begin offering an elective course in the study of the Bible under a measure approved by a Senate committee.
The Appropriations Subcommittee on Education on Wednesday passed the bill. It now goes to the full Appropriations Committee.
Elk City Democrat Tom Ivester says schools in Oklahoma already are offering similar courses -- but says his measure would provide guidelines to ensure the classes are focusing on the historical context of scripture.
"The Bible as a historical document offers so much," Sen. Tom Ivester (D) Elk City said.
But, the senator says students don't even know the basics of the Bible partly because he says school districts are afraid to teach it, something the senator says his bill helps to fix.
"I have a feeling a lot of schools won't touch this with a 10-foot pole simply because they are afraid of getting sued, it's legal, but there is no road map on how to do it, this bill provides that road map," Ivester said.
"There is a need specifically here in Oklahoma, the Bible is very important in the state," said Jim Hill with Americans United Against Separation of Church and State.
Hill taught the history of religion in the Oklahoma City school system for 20 years and he likes what the senator is trying to do but says Lvestor's bill is far from perfect.
"It doesn't require a certified teacher, it doesn't require the teacher to be trained before they go in the classroom," Hill said.
Hill says even under the strictest guidelines could lead to teachers forcing beliefs onto the students and as for teaching other religions the senator would only say this:
"Would be more than happy to look at any bill that someone else wants to bring forward, but there is no argument that the Bible more than any other book has had a bigger impact on the Western world," Ivester said.
The head of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State says he sees some merit to the idea, but only if teachers are trained to teach the course objectively. Mike Fuller says his group's concern is about the possibility of teachers endorsing religion.