Thursday, August 27, 2009

Iowa school district eliminates class on Bible and another critiquing evolutionary theory

An Iowa school district has decided to remove a Bible class and a class critiquing evolutionary theory from its curriculum to avoid being sued over its proposed "religious liberties" policy. Staci Hupp of The Des Moines Register reports that "the elective classes and other parts of the plan drew fire last month from civil rights activists who said they promoted Christian beliefs." (Photo by Win McNamee)

The Spencer School District's plan to offer a constitutionally valid Bible course is believed to be the first such attempt at outlining religious freedoms in an Iowa public school. Georgia, Texas and other states have seen school systems adopt similar policies, Hupp reports. In a 2007 Time magazine cover story that detailed the rising trend of teaching Bible literacy courses in public schools, David Van Biema reported that a textbook called "The Bible and Its Influence" had been adopted by many schools as a vehicle to teach the Bible's historical context in the United States. According to the Bible Literacy Project, the creator of the book, it is used in 330 schools across 43 states. In October 2007, Alabama became the first state to approve a textbook for academic study of the Bible when it designated "The Bible and Its Influence" available with purchase of state funds.

Hupp reports that the Spencer district's policy "drew complaints from interfaith and nonreligious advocates, a university professor and an attorney from Americans United for Separation of Church and State in Washington, D.C., among others." Spencer officials plan to revise the policy with advise from attorneys, teachers and other groups before submitting it again, Hupp reports. (Read more)

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