Groups Unveil Educators' Legal Guide for Teaching About the Bible
NEW YORK CITY — To help communities avoid the confusion and conflict surrounding the Bible in public schools, People For the American Way Foundation today joined a number of other leading religious liberty organizations and educational and religious groups in unveiling a constitutional guide for educators. "The Bible and Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide," published by the First Amendment Center and the National Bible Association, brings parties on both sides of the Bible debate together to create a constitutional model for how public schools may teach about the Bible in an objective and secular manner that neither promotes nor inhibits religion.
The Supreme Court has held that teaching about the Bible in a public school must be done "objectively as part of a secular program of education." Yet PFAWF has often found that public schools ignore this ruling and instead teach the Bible from a sectarian perspective, as historical fact, and for purposes of faith formation.
As the lead litigator in the most recent court cases challenging unconstitutional approaches to teaching about the Bible in public schools – Gibson v. Lee County School Board last year in Florida and Herdahl v. Pontotoc County School District in 1996 in Mississippi -- People For the American Way Foundation brought its expertise from these successful court challenges to the creation of the guide.
"This guide will help school districts chart a constitutional course when teaching about the Bible. It can help protect the right of students to a sound and lawful education, and the right of taxpayers not to fund religious instruction," said Judith E. Schaeffer, deputy legal director of People For the American Way Foundation.
"We've seen the Bible taught the wrong way and it's divided communities, hurt students and cost taxpayers thousands of dollars," said Schaeffer. "This guide will go a long way in helping public schools teach about the Bible lawfully – in such courses as literature, history, and comparative religion – and steer clear of teaching matters of faith as historical fact or promoting one religious faith over another."
The full report, with or without graphics, can be downloaded in Adobe Acrobat PDF format from the Freedom Forum website:
Additional copies of the report can be ordered by calling 1-800-830-3733 and request Publication No. 99-F03.