By Tom Stark, 09/22/2012
In the early sixties, Bibles could be found at the front of every classroom in public schools across America. They were usually lying on the teacher’s desk, readily available for a daily Psalm-reading before studies began. From that time back to our founding, schools commonly not only read a Bible verse each morning before starting classes, but studied Scripture for the benefit of spiritual and moral education as well.
Then came the cases brought in court that developed the “separation of church and state” argument that began the moral and spiritual downfall of America. While this might sound dramatic, I sincerely believe that it is true and can be objectively observed when one studies the trends in crime, sexual assault, deviant behaviors, truancy, family disintegration, etc., that has been like a black plague on this country since those court decisions.
So how do we begin to reverse that trend? A school district in Tennessee may have stumbled on a solution. Writing for WND Education, Drew Zahn describes their approach:
“On Sept. 16, a group of [eleven] Hamilton County, Tenn., churches – including Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Assemblies of God and more – will meet for the “Hixson Gathering,” a prayer service and fund-raiser for a unique program of elective, for-credit, Bible history classes taught at [twenty] schools in the county, including the Hixson Middle and High Schools.”
It is important to also point out that Bible classes are being offered in other districts but to date and to the best of my research, they are being offered universally as non-credit classes. While these courses are still elective, too, they do result in credit on the student’s record. If anyone knows of any others that offer credit, I’d enjoy hearing from you.
An organization called Bibles in the Schools helped the churches organize and develop the program. Its spokesperson describes what has happened:
“The federal courts have affirmed that teaching the Bible in our public schools is a constitutionally protected freedom,” Bible in the Schools asserts. “[And] with all the concern over character, no program is better positioned to touch more students quantitatively or qualitatively.”
The program centers on the Bible as history rather than the basis of Christian doctrine, but the impact is clearly one that encourages youth to learn, question, and understand the historical events of the Bible that cover thousands of years of human history.
Additionally, the other unique aspect of this program is that no taxpayer funds are used to pay for the instructors. Zahn describes it thusly:
“The program, which Bible in the Schools told WND it hopes can serve as a model for communities all across the U.S., began in 1922, when local resident Dr. J. Park McCallie first proposed a unique plan in which private citizens in the community would pay for teachers – who would, in turn, be subject to the board of education in scholarship and discipline – to instruct students in the history and language of the Bible.”
Bibles in the Schools will make their program material available to any group who wishes to copy it and replicate the program elsewhere in the country. In fact, they enthusiastically welcome that kind of imitation.
A visit to the Bible in the Schools website makes it clear that they have a lot to offer any group or coalition that seeks to start a program like this in their local school district. It is chocked full of information and guidance. Some of the unique factors that allow this kind of program to thwart efforts by groups like Citizens United for Separation of Church and State (CUSCS) or the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) include:
- Teachers must be employed and supervised by the county Department of Education.
- Teachers must be certified and have a minimum of 12 semester hours of Bible courses as part of their college education.
- The schools must be reimbursed in full for the teachers’ salaries and benefits by private citizens; there is no cost to the taxpayer.
- Bible courses are elective, offered to middle and senior high students only, and credit is given for their study.
- No religious proselytizing, sectarianism or denominationalism is permitted in class. Students with doctrinal questions are encouraged to seek out a pastor or rabbi.
- The curriculum is court approved.
Chuck Norris, who has written extensively on the subject for WND Education, wrote,
“Unknown to most, it’s our legal and our constitutional right to be taught the Bible in public schools. I want to help you get a course on it offered in your school district, too.”
So my challenge to West Virginia’s pastors is simply this:
The tools are there, the legal issues have been clearly delineated, and the need is one that is crucial to the future well-being of our children. Who is concerned enough to step up, seek out the leaders in their churches and school districts and make this a reality in West Virginia schools as well? Is it you? Think about it!
About Tom Stark
Tom Stark began writing for the Engage Family Minute blog in February 2012. As a small business owner Tom is passionate about the intersection of faith and politics in the life of Christians and the community around him. Having been touched by both the abortion issue and the issue of homosexuality in his own family, Tom is passionate about defending the lives of the unborn and upholding Biblical Truth. Tom also writes for www.westvirginiaconservative.com