Bill would create Bible study elective for high schools

Posted February 26, 2013
Updated February 27, 2013

— Students at public high schools would be able to take a Bible study elective under a bill filed Tuesday by Sen. Stan Bingham, R-Davidson.

"Somebody locally called me about it," Bingham said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. More than anything else, he said, he wanted to open a discussion about the idea.

"(Religion) has always been something that you don't discuss with schools," he said.

As currently drafted, Senate Bill 32 allows local school boards to "offer to students in grades nine through 12 elective courses for credit on the Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament), the New Testament or a combination of the two subject matters."

The bill also specifies that the course would have to maintain "religious neutrality." Students could learn about the characters, poetry and content of the Bible as well as its "history, style, structure and societal influence."

Similar bills have raised objections in other states.

"It's very easy for teachers to cross the line and violate students' religious rights," Victoria Lopez, a program director with the Arizona office of the American Civil Liberties Union, told The Associated Press when a similar piece of legislation made its way into law in that state last year.

Sarah Preston, a lobbyist for the ACLU of North Carolina, said Wednesday that such bills were difficult to put in place without running afoul of First Amendment issues.

"It is of course constitutional and okay to teach about religion in an academic way," Preston said. "We'd suggest it be taught in the context of a comparative religion class." Such a class, she said, would look at and compare many different faith traditions. In a later e-mail, Preston wrote, "Because religious belief is such a personal issue, we believe it's a topic best left to the student's parents, and not government bureaucrats or school officials."

Asked if he thought there might be any problems with church-state separation issues, Bingham said he didn't know. "I wouldn't think so," he said.

Bingham said that, if his bill passes, it would likely be up to students and parents to ask a local school system to develop an elective. School systems would have the option of whether to implement the course or not.


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  • orionsune2 Mar 1, 2013

    Religion is a very bad thing to be discussed in public office and political venues. Just look at the kind of reaction in the comments. Then take a look at other parts of the world like places in the middle east. Let's also consider the Dark Ages where government revolved around religious beliefs. Should we really be discussing religion in our shcools or spending our time trying to solve the very real problems facing people who actually exist in this reality?

  • ckblackm Feb 28, 2013

    There's a place to study about the bible... it's called church.

  • oldrebel Feb 27, 2013

    In the seventies when I attended high school in Moore County, we had Bible studies as an elective. I can't imagine why people who are against it get themselves in such a froth over an elective.

  • teleman60 Feb 27, 2013

    Those wacky republicans, HAHAHA! The gift that keeps on giving -- making moving away more appealing every day!!!

  • for the people Feb 27, 2013

    i think everyone should calm down about all this. my bet is those that are on this forum and speaking so negatively about this issue are NOT from this part of the country. i am not. and, i am not a religious person. but, lets not allow recent history determine how cultures have lived for hundreds of years. this part of the country wants religion in their culture and they should have it. this is a bill to establish an elective for bible study. i can't see how this is hurtful to anyone.

  • tracmister Feb 27, 2013

    We have no text books for five years now. No computer site licenses for new on-line materials. Not enough staff for the classes we have. No cost of living increases in five years and the pay raise this year was less that the cost of inflation. But we are going to add to the curriculum which made also add Islamic, Jewish, Wican, and Atheist studies. Again, the legislator has their priorities way out of wack. Get more computers in the schools and get more jobs here. Stop wasting everyone's time with frivolous nonsense.

  • independent_thinker Feb 27, 2013

    Back to the '50s - the 1850s....

  • wral mods blow close my account Feb 27, 2013

    What's the point Sen. Stan? Your GOP buddies are just going to slash the Education budget so teachers will never be hired to teach the class.

  • chrisdebra2 Feb 27, 2013

    Another useless bill brought to you by the NC GOP! Where will it end? Religion of any sort is a highly personal and PRIVATE decision based on one's own disposition towards belief...not the state!

  • Deep Thought Feb 27, 2013

    NO! First, this is wrong in so many ways. AND, for those that are terrified of Sharia Law, how will you ever justify not giving credit for studying the Koran if you've been studying the christian Bible? Budism, Hinduism, Wiccan, Satanism, agnostic, Rastafarian, snake worshiping, speaking in tongues, where will it end?

    People, please, please pay attention to what the newly empowered republicans are doing. They have cut unemployment benefits, cleared the way for gutting the estate tax, fast tracked fracking, and now this bible study bill. It's like they know they will be thrown out of power for more decades and they are trying to get everything for their buddies, rich & religious, done NOW!

    There is so much that needs to really be done, JOBS, JOBS, JOBS, but they just concentrate on special interests.