Forget about what the law says, some Texas school board members think they know better.
The Houston Chronicle reports that several Texas Board of Education members are pushing Texas schools to teach a curriculum drafted by the North Carolina-based National Council on Bible Curriculum In Public Schools (NCBCPS). This promotion comes despite the fact that a Florida federal court ruled 10 years ago that this group's curriculum is unconstitutional. (Gibson v. Lee County School Board, 1998)
Not to mention, earlier this year, a public school in Texas settled a lawsuit involving the teaching of the NCBCPS curriculum. The settlement required Ector County Independent School District in Odessa, Texas, to stop using NCBCPS's materials.
Yet in an e-mail circulated by these state school board members to Texas school officials, they state, "The curriculum provided by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools meets the academic requirements set forth by both the State Board of Education and the Texas Legislature, and could be implemented successfully by local school districts."
Apparently they forgot that the curriculum also has to meet standards set forth by the U.S. Constitution.
Courses on the Bible may be taught in public schools so long has they are academic in nature, neutral and objective. But they cannot be used to proselytize and push a narrow religious viewpoint. A Florida district court found in 1998 that NCBCPS's curriculum did push a religious viewpoint.
Judge Elizabeth Kovachevish wrote in her opinion that it is "difficult to conceive how the account of the Resurrection or of miracles could be taught as secular history," and prohibited the teaching of the NCBCPS's New Testament curriculum in public schools. (NCBCPS offers classes in both the Old and New Testaments.)
According to Mark Chancey, a professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University, NCBCPS's curriculum "reflects a bias towards conservative Protestant perspectives of the Bible at the expense of other perspectives. Basically, this course promotes certain religious views over all others."
That's exactly what the Constitution prohibits. As Dan Quinn of the Texas Freedom Network told The Chronicle, "They are promoting a Bible class curriculum that's going to get schools sued."
Interestingly, in the email, these state school board members also told school officials, "It makes logical sense to select a curriculum that has already been tested and proven within the field."
They're absolutely right. And NCBCPS's curriculum certainly isn't it.