By: Hiram Sasser, General Counsel for First Liberty Institute
President Trump recently tweeted, “Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!” As usual, a tweet from the President brings with it greater public interest in the topic.
While the President has brought renewed attention to Biblical literacy courses, the courses themselves are not new. Even the ACLU has agreed that schools can offer courses about the Bible using the Bible as the textbook. Common concerns over the constitutionality of public schools offering a course about the Bible can be addressed with the basic guidelines of the curriculum.
The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the practice in its 1963 decision, Abington Township v. Schempp. Since then, most advocates on both sides of the religion-in-schools debate agree that the Bible may be taught as literature. Many also agree, as the Supreme Court affirmed in Schempp, that the Bible may be taught for its “historic qualities” as part of a “secular program of education.”
Indeed, these courses are an academic study of the Hebrew texts and the New Testament. The goal of Biblical literacy curriculum is an understanding of the Bible’s impact on the history, literature, laws, and government of Western Civilization. Knowledge of the content, characters, poetry, and philosophy of the Hebrew texts and the New Testament provides an invaluable insight into understanding modern culture. An accurate study of Western Civilization is, in fact, impossible without it.