The American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama Executive Director Randall Marshall commented against SB14, a bill that would allow public schools to teach Bible studies as an elective course, calling it a waste of money and potentially unconstitutional.
“While Alabama’s schools continue to struggle, we have to wonder why legislators are spending valuable time in session passing a bill to allow public schools to teach Bible classes,” Marshall said. “This is hardly the solution that public schools and their students need to improve their education, and it will instead set up schools to spend extra money on training teachers to teach these courses in a constitutionally appropriate manner, and if not, waste money on litigating unconstitutional classes that cross the line into religious indoctrination.”
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Tim Nelson, R-Florence, passed the House last week and was assigned to the conference committee yesterday. The committee has not met yet to discuss the bill.
It would allow public schools to offer Bible study and religious history courses for grades six through 12. It would also allow schools to openly display religious artifacts, monuments, symbols and texts if correlating with one of these courses.
A school principal could decide to authorize the display of religious artifacts if it is said to be related to an elective course.
Suggested courses in the bill include courses on the old and new testaments of the Bible, influence of the Bible on history and religious poetry, art and music.
Though being written as allowing courses about any religion, the bill notably only mentions courses related to Christianity.
No teacher is required to teach any course in this section if they do not want to, and teachers who do teach these courses are told not to promote or endorse any certain religion.
The ACLU said religion is something best kept in families instead of schools, and the bill could be a misuse of time and funds for a state working to improve education. According to US News, Alabama ranks last of all 50 states for education.
“Legislators should have more faith and let their children’s education focus on key skills they need to succeed like math and reading and trust that religious education is best handled by a child’s parents and faith community,” Marshall said.