Bible as literature, history expands in public schools across the country

By Mary Faulds, AFA Journal staff writer

February 2009 – The United States Supreme Court outlawed devotional Bible reading in public schools in 1963, and in 1980 they barred the Ten Commandments. 

But did the founding fathers really intend for the Bible to be removed from our schools? Likely not, for according to a study done by the American Political Science Review, 94% of all the political documents of the Founding Era of our nation were based on the Bible, and of that, 34% of the contents were direct quotations from the Bible.

With this inconsistency in mind, in 1993 a group of educators decided to attempt to bring the Bible back as a textbook for North Carolina public high school students. Elizabeth Ridenour, president and founder of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBCPS), said the effort resulted in such a significant response from school districts outside the state that the NCBCPS was formed.

Today, the NCBCPS Bible curriculum is being used in 475 school districts in 38 states across the country. That amounts to about 1,950 high schools and junior high schools and about 210,000 students have taken the elective Bible course at their school.

Ridenour said the NCBCPS doesn’t approach school districts, but rather works with interested parents, teachers and others to promote the use of the Bible course for their local schools. Recently, television commercials featuring well-known figures such as actors Chuck Norris, Stephen Baldwin, and the late evangelist D. James Kennedy have resulted in an increase in the number of people visiting the NCBCPS website,

“So when our commercials air on TV or in print media or on radio,” Ridenour said, “the local citizens from their district call, if they’d like to get the curriculum. And we send them a package of information that offers a step-by-step guide on how to do that.” She said NCBCPS then helps with the official processes of bringing the curriculum to their schools. The strategy has been highly successful with 94% of school boards accepting the proposal.

That’s not to say that obstacles aren’t encountered. Ridenour said occasionally a school board has had a decided bias against the curriculum. She said the ACLU has always been a detractor to putting the Bible course in schools. “The ACLU is always going to say boo,” she said. “They don’t like anything in the public arena that has to do with God, but they have not been able to slow it down at all.”

Recently, the Alabama State Board of Education accepted the NCBCPS as the state’s official Bible curriculum. That means the state will pay for the materials for any school district that wants to teach an elective Bible course. 

According to Scott Beason, Alabama state senator, “Reports and studies released over the last few years indicate that leading high school English teachers, as well as university level literature professors, believe that students should possess a strong familiarity with the Bible in order to attain a well-rounded education. It is extremely difficult to understand Western thought including history, politics and social interaction without an understanding of the content of the Bible.”

Ridenour agrees, saying those who have taken the Bible course often come to realize the previous gap in their education. Parents have been so impressed by what their students are learning from the course, Ridenour said, that they find themselves engaged in the curriculum through homework.

The course itself is a year-long study of the Bible and its ties to history. The first semester covers the Old Testament, including the patriarchs such as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the Levitical law; Moses and the Ten Commandments; the Psalms and Proverbs as literature.

The second half of the year covers the New Testament. During that segment, the life of Christ is studied as well as the spread of the early church. Then the importance of the Bible in American history is explored along with the Bible’s impact on art.

Ridenour said the interest in teaching the historical relevance of the Bible in public schools is increasing. Along with Alabama, Georgia has added the Bible curriculum to 46 school districts. To help expedite the availability of the teaching materials, NCBCPS will be offering an online curriculum in early spring.

Ridenour summed up their goal: “We have seen what has happened since the Bible was removed from our schools in 1963. The Supreme Court and the national secretary of education have said that Bible curriculum in the public schools is legal. We need to move while the door is open.”  undefined 

For help with the process of winning the support of your school board for the NCBCPS curriculum, or to order the curriculum, call toll free 1-877-ONBIBLE (1-877-662-4253).