Thursday, the Tennessee Board of Education approved guidelines on how to teach the Bible in public high schools. The curriculum is in response to 2008 legislation, which authorized the state to create a course for a "nonsectarian, nonreligious academic study of the Bible."
-- From "TN tells high schools how to teach the Bible" by Jaime Sarrio and Bob Smietana, The Tennessean 1/29/10
State officials said they tried to develop principles that are safe from court challenges, but others believe a state-approved Bible course could violate church and state separation, depending on who is teaching the course.
Hedy Weinberg, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, said it appears the state was sensitive to concerns that the classes would be used to proselytize. But there are few details on how the classes will be run.
The course is an elective, meaning high schools can choose whether to offer it to students as a social studies credit, and students can decide whether to take it. Before the state-approved curriculum, school districts could develop and offer their own courses on the Bible, and according to state social studies specialist Brenda Ables, some of these classes have been offered for years.
Ables said state officials looked to other states with Bible courses, including Texas, Alabama and Georgia, when developing curriculum and determining what legal pitfalls to avoid.
Bible courses in Knox County have been popular with students and problem-free, Ables said, but she doesn't expect to see a huge increase of schools in Tennessee that will offer the course.
Students will learn the content of the Bible and its historical context.
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