Many Texas school districts are flouting guidelines intended to ensure that Bible courses are impartial and academically sound, the Texas Freedom Network says.
Six years after Texas lawmakers passed a law establishing guidelines on how to make Bible courses academically sound and legally aboveboard, many of the state's public school children are still being taught that God created the Earth and other religious beliefs as fact, a new report contends.
The report by the Texas Freedom Network, an organization that strives to maintain a separation of church and state in Texas public schools, says nearly 60 school districts in the Lone Star State taught courses about the Bible in 2011-12. That's more than double the number teaching such courses in 2006.
In 2007, the Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1287, which allowed districts to offer Old and New Testament classes but sought to regulate such courses by establishing guidelines to improve their quality and impartiality. The Texas Freedom Network report, released earlier this month, concludes that "state agencies and many local school districts have largely ignored those guidelines."
"For once Texas got in front of a thorny issue and passed solid guidelines designed to fix a real problem," Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund, said in a statement. "But if everybody is allowed to ignore those guidelines, they have no teeth. And if the state isn't going to enforce its own guidelines and fund even basic teacher training, maybe we should leave instruction about the Bible to religious congregations who will treat it with the respect it deserves."
The report was prepared by Mark Chancey, a professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He says he found numerous instances in which public school classrooms resembled Sunday school when it comes to Bible classes.
Among the examples cited:
- A classroom resource listed by Lazbuddie Independent School District declares in its introduction: "Don't worry about scriptures you do not understand. Simply concentrate on what God reveals to you in His Word and trust Him to make the vague things clearer to you as you continue to study."
- Instructional material in two school districts teach that racial diversity today can be traced back to Noah's sons, a claim that the report says has long been discredited.
- Many courses suggest or openly claim that the Bible is literally true. In one district, students are shown a listing of biblical events side by side with historical developments from around the globe and told that the Bible's historical claims are largely beyond question.
- One course assumes Christians will at some point be "raptured."
- A number of courses teach students that the Bible proves Earth is just 6,000 years old.
- One district includes the following worksheet on the Bible's creation story: "Elohim [a Hebrew word used for God] created not only the universe, but angels, millions of angels, who do errands for him. Angels always stay angels. We never become angels while we live or when we die. They are created to serve God as messengers. Angles [sic] cannot reproduce with each other because they are, it seems, all males. One of the angels God created was named Lucifer aka Light-bearer, Day Star, Morning Star."
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that public schools can offer classes about the Bible as long as the classes don't advocate for a specific religious view.
The Texas Education Agency, the branch of state government responsible for public education, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday from MSN News. Gov. Rick Perry's office did not immediately return a phone call for comment.
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