West Virginia Bible Classes — Update

Back in January we wrote Suit Alleges Creationism in West Virginia Schools. The parent of a public school student, represented by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, had sued the Mercer County school board, alleging that the “Bible in the Schools” program, active in 15 elementary schools, is unconstitutional.

There hasn’t been much news about the litigation yet, but ol’ Hambo wrote about it a week ago — see Are Bible Classes in Public Schools Unconstitutional? In his role as a divinely inspired expert on the US Constitution, Hambo said:

Why does FFRF [Freedom From Religion Foundation] really want to rid schools of elective, voluntary Bible classes? Because its leadership hates Christianity! They are in rebellion against God and don’t want anyone to hear His Word. They aren’t content with having their religion of atheism taught as fact to millions of students in government schools across America—and using taxpayer money to do it. They also want to ensure that no student is exposed to alternative views, especially Christianity and the Bible.

We need to pray that the FFRF does not win this lawsuit and that the students who wish to have the freedom to learn about the Bible in class can continue to do so.

Today we found some news in the Charleston Gazette-Mail of Charleston, West Virginia, the state capital. Their headline is Mercer cancels elementary Bible classes, adds optional high school course. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Mercer County’s school board has canceled Bible classes in its public elementary schools next school year, but it’s now adding a new, optional high school Bible course for next school year.

Deborah Akers, superintendent of Mercer’s public school system and president of the West Virginia Association of School Administrators, said the current weekly 30-minute Bible classes, which are the target of a lawsuit challenging their constitutionality, are offered at a majority of the county’s public elementary and middle schools. She said students in the high school course — about 40 students have signed up so far — will meet daily for 90 minutes for a full semester, which is half of a school year. It’ll be offered at all four high schools.

So they’re cancelling the mandatory elementary school bible classes, and offering an optional bible class for their high schools. It’s progress. Then the newspaper reports:

“The current suit is continuing,” Freedom From Religion Foundation staff attorney Patrick Elliott wrote in an emailed response to the Gazette-Mail’s request for comment. “At this time, we are not planning on challenging the high school courses.

“It is unclear if Mercer County Schools will continue to teach the Bible in the Schools courses for middle school students,” Elliott continued. “We are still reviewing documents filed by the school system in court and we expect to file a reply in the coming weeks.”

It sounds like the public school system of Mercer County is one big tax-supported Sunday School, all week long for all grades. Here’s more about the voluntary high school bible class:

Akers [superintendent of Mercer’s public school system] said the school system will try this summer to also adapt the planned curriculum for the high school course, which will be using the Bible Literacy Project’s “The Bible and Its Influence” textbook, into a nine-week-long version for middle schools. There are four nine-week periods in a middle school year.

“‘The Bible and Its Influence’ is the only First Amendment-safe textbook being taught in America’s public schools,” states the website of the Bible Literacy Project, a New York-based nonprofit. “It is widely acclaimed and broadly accepted in the academic community.” The website says that “Because of the academic nature of the course, it has not faced any legal challenges” and that it has “supported instruction for 100,000 students in 580 schools in 43 states.”

We know nothing about that book, and apparently it’s not part of the current litigation. Our last excerpt is a statement from the lawyers who brought the suit:

“FFRF is pleased at this first step in addressing long-standing violations of the constitutional rights of children and parents,” the Freedom From Religion Foundation stated in a news release it sent out later Wednesday. “Starting this fall, it appears that students will receive an appropriate education free from religious instruction within the Mercer County public schools system. Contending that the bible classes are not legally defensible, FFRF will continue to pursue all legal remedies available against the school system to ensure compliance with the First Amendment.”

The release didn’t mention the upcoming high school classes or the possible continuing middle school classes.

Oh, wait — this is the last line of the news story:

Bible classes have been taught in the Mercer public school system going back to 1939.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! After being governed as a theocracy for almost 80 years, Mercer County is learning that it’s located in the US, and is governed by the Constitution. It must be quite a shock.

Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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6 responses to “West Virginia Bible Classes — Update

  1. Dave Luckett

    If taught as literature or history of culture or ideas, or as part of a course in general history, with instances of its influence on Western civilisation, neither I nor Richard Dawkins have any objection to the Bible in schools. Nor to a course in its provenance or descent – that is, who wrote it, when, where, under what circumstances, for what purposes, and how the original texts were selected, translated and transmitted, and how its accounts square with known history. As an elective in high school, such a course could be very valuable.

    In fact, I suspect that such a course would be more likely to be objected to by Ken Ham, because it would bring students face-to-face with the Bible’s human origins: the slips, exaggerations, lacunae, mistakes, errors, prejudices, additions, inconsistencies, buried paganism and propaganda that it contains.

  2. Book is $89.95 on Amazon. A great investment for cash strapped schools like in WVA and elsewhere.

    I always thought HS classes were 60 minutes, not 90. Maybe science classes will be cut or as often done, students in other classes will have to sit idle for 30 min. while participants attend these important lessons.

    This is the kind of curriculum Betsy DeVos is striving for, and worse.

  3. I can’t imagine high school students would voluntarily take an out-of-hours course “daily for 90 minutes for a full semester”, not even in the bible belt. That must be a typo.

  4. More bible is exactly what the general populace needs in WV. 1/3 of their population on public assistance and this will fit right in with their ideal society. Ignorance is bliss.

  5. Dave Luckett

    And re-reading, there’s a detail I missed the first time: 90 minutes a day for a semester!

    As an elective, say forty minutes once a week, probably effective. Ninety minutes a day is way, way over the top. And for those who don’t elect this, what do they get instead? Library? Tensor calculus? Latin? The works of Schopenhauer? Wood shop? Betcha it’s something the average adolescent would avoid if possible.

  6. @Dave Luckett — Woodshop? Hey, I’d take that in a heartbeat. Great fun!
    Actually, I did take woodshop — as well as electric shop, welding shop, and foundry. That was back in the day when Lane Tech in Chicago still had shop classes. No Bible study courses were offered, though.

    “As an elective, say forty minutes once a week, probably effective.”

    Isn’t that called “Sunday School”?