FRANKFORT – Public school students would get the option to take Bible literacy classes under a measure that passed the state Senate on Monday.
The measure, known as Senate Bill 278, would allow Bible literacy courses to be taught in public schools as a social studies elective. The bill would require that the “course provide students knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture, including literature, art, music, mores, oratory, and public policy.”
SB 278 came to a floor vote after being unanimously approved by the Senate Education Committee on March 10 after several senators spoke in favor of it.
“This bill would not have a religious connotation as much as a historical connotation,” bill sponsor Sen. Robin L. Webb, D-Grayson, said while testifying before the committee. “As you know, I’ve practiced constitutional law about 30 years now … and I certainly feel like this bill passes constitutional muster on any neutrality issues that would arise.”
Webb added that she took a “Bible as literature” course when she attended East Carter High School.
Committee member Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, said he didn’t believe the U.S. Supreme Court intended to prevent all discussion of religion in public schools.
“I think we have reached a point … in our society where we have become afraid to talk about religion and faith in our schools,” he said. “I do think it is important and pertinent to talk about theology and talk about different religions and talk about the Bible. The Bible isn’t something we should run away from.”
Another committee member, Sen. Gerald A. Neal, D-Louisville, said he found a college course he took on western religions intellectually stimulating.
“I think this brings values and roundness to the educational experience,” he said of SB 278.
The measure now goes to the state House of Representatives for further consideration.