Watchdog Group Urges School Board To Reconsider Bible Courses In Lee County Public Schools

The Lee County School Board's proposed Bible-as-History courses open the door to legal challenges on constitutional grounds, a national church-state watchdog group charged today.

In a letter to Board Chairman Dr. Douglas Santini, Americans United for Separation of Church and State urged the school board to reconsider this effort when the curriculum comes up for approval on Tuesday, July 15.

Said Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn in his letter to Santini, "U.S. public schools may teach about religion, but may not indoctrinate or favor one religious perspective over others.

"Teaching public school students that the Bible is an accurate representation of world history," continued Lynn, "is not within the law...Frankly, it appears that these classes could become little more than an opportunity to teach a specific religious doctrine as scholarly fact. Accordingly, I join many of your neighbors in sincere concern about the apparent lack of objectivity in the courses being mandated by the school board."

Like many critics of the school board's initiative, Lynn was quick to point out that this should not be a "religious" issue, but rather a serious legal one. While the Supreme Court has said that courses about the history of religion or Bible-as-literature are permissible school subjects, courses using the Bible as historical fact are not.

Lynn also wrote, "It is important for you to understand that this Bible- as-History initiative from the school board may ultimately lead to lawsuits on constitutional grounds, exacerbating an already difficult situation."

The letter from Lynn to Santini went on to say, "I am sure you recognize that a school board needs to strive for excellence while acting within the law. Selectively ignoring or disobeying the law because of political or philosophical differences sets a poor example for the students in your district. It also jeopardizes the rights of religious minorities whose children it is your responsibility to educate and represent."

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.