(AUSTIN) – People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF) today sent a letter to the Board of Trustees and the Superintendent of the Ector County Independent School District. Following up on a letter sent to the Board in May 2005 and in anticipation of the board’s meeting on this issue tomorrow, the letter cautions the board against adopting a constitutionally impermissible curriculum for a new elective course about the Bible, and urges consideration of alternative course materials.
The objectionable materials, developed by a right-wing group called the National Council for Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBCPS), teach the Bible as history and from a Christian perspective – each constitutionally impermissible in a public school. Adopting them “would likely embroil the district in needless, divisive and costly litigation,” reads the letter from PFAWF ‘s Legal Director, Elliot M. Mincberg, and Deputy Legal Director, Judith E. Schaeffer, who have extensive experience in these issues. The letter also points out that at a public forum in November held by the district’s Curriculum Committee , the majority of speakers advocated the adoption of a textbook recently published by the Bible Literacy Project, written to pass constitutional muster.
“Public schools are for all children, of all faiths. It’s important – and a legal requirement – that our schools not be used to advance any particular religious beliefs. While the Bible may of course be taught about in a public school, that teaching must be done lawfully,” said Deece Eckstein, Director of the Texas and Southwest Region of People For the American Way Foundation.
The letter also noted that NCBCPS’s assertion that its curriculum has never been legally challenged is simply wrong. In fact, in the 1998 Gibson v. Lee County School Board case in Florida, a federal court enjoined the use of the “New Testament” portion of the edition of the NCBCPS curriculum adopted by a local school board. This year, a respected Bible scholar, Dr. Mark A. Chancey of Southern Methodist University, reviewed the NCBCPS materials and reported serious flaws from his perspective as an educator that independently reaffirm the concerns that PFAWF has brought to the ECISD school board’s attention.
“The school board can choose to expose the taxpayers to the risk of divisive and expensive lawsuits, or it can choose to adopt materials that will lawfully enrich their students’ understanding of the Bible,” said Eckstein. “It should be an easy choice.”