UPDATE: Ky. Board of Education approves standards for "Bible literacy" class
The Kentucky Board of Education has unanimously approved "Bible literacy" standards for public schools after being challenged by the ACLU to keep Church and State separate, as required by the Constitution.
The Courier Journal reports that the standards approved Wednesday cover disciplinary literacy, historical thinking and analyzing influences. The idea is to enable students taking elective courses to study the Bible as literature, not as devotional material.
Kentucky's American Civil Liberties Union challenged the state to develop guidelines, saying its review found numerous examples of constitutional violations.
Board spokeswoman Nancy Rodriguez says individual schools, not the state, are responsible for ensuring that teachers follow the standards.
The American Civil Liberties Union says "Bible literacy" classes being taught in some public schools in Kentucky may be unconstitutional.
The Kentucky chapter of the ACLU sent a letter to the Kentucky Department of Education expressing "serious concern."
The ACLU is asking that the Department of Education establish standards that ensure that the Bible in public schools is appropriately controlled and applied constitutionally.
A bill passed last summer now gives public schools the option to teach Bible courses as part of a school's Social Studies curriculum. The courses are not mandatory and are electives for students.
The ACLU says there are several schools in the state with courses that have "serious fundamental and constitutional issues," including one in our region.
A spokeswoman for the ACLU says, "there definitely appears to be unconstitutional activity happening in the Lewis County course."
The course was first made available to students this fall.
The ACLU received course materials from several schools through an open records request.
Principal Jack Lykins says the curriculum is based off a late version of the bill. He says one valuable aspect of the class is that students are able to come in with questions about topics they want to learn about. The ACLU says "crafting and teaching 'Bible Literacy' courses in a constitutionally permissible manner is exceedingly difficult to do" and that "such a difficult and important task should not be left up to the very students who are in school to learn."
Principal Lykins says there is nothing unconstitutional about the course.
"I feel like here we follow what the constitution says, the constitution does not say we have to have separation of church and state, it says congress shall make no law establishing a religion," Lykins said. "We are not establishing a religion here at Lewis County High School, we are teaching about the various religions of the world, letting students make their own decisions of what they believe. We don't push beliefs on any students in the class."
Lykins says the course is really a history course of world religions rather than a Bible literacy course.
He says in the course, they will look at a specific event and compare how religions around the world view it.
He says they never sit down and go verse by verse through the Bible.
"There's no daily devotionals, that's not done. Daily prayer is not done ... it's more of a comparative religion."
Lykins has no hesitations about continuing the course.