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Student Education Rights Resource Feature


The Bible in the Public School

By Charles Colson
Breakpoint/Prison Fellowship

CBN.comIt may be hard to believe, but many state school officials across the country actually encourage teaching public school students about the Bible and Christianity. That’s because the Bible and Christianity are so important in understanding Western civilization and, specifically, American history and culture.

For example, the California Department of Education’s History-Social Science standards expect sixth-graders to “Note the origins of Christianity in the Jewish Messianic prophecies, the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as described in the New Testament, and the contribution of St. Paul the Apostle to the definition and spread of Christian beliefs (For example, belief in the Trinity, resurrection, salvation).”

In Massachusetts, state school officials expect seventh grade students to “Describe the origins of Christianity and its central features: monotheism; the belief in Jesus as the Messiah and God’s son who redeemed humans from sin; the concept of salvation; belief in the Old and New Testament; and the lives and teachings of Jesus and Saint Paul.”

High school students in Florida are expected to “know the significant ideas and texts of… Christianity…”

Not only is it academically expected across the country, it is legally supported by the courts.

Many people mistakenly assume using the Bible in a public school is prohibited by law. But in fact, the Supreme Court has actually endorsed using the Bible in public schools.

In the 1963 Supreme Court case of Abington School District v. Schempp, the Court ruled that public schools cannot initiate devotional reading of the Bible. However, Justice Clark, writing the majority opinion also stated:

“It certainly may be said that the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities.”

In the case of Stone v. Graham, where the Supreme Court ruled against the posting of the Ten Commandments in schools because they “are undeniably a sacred text in the Jewish and Christian faiths,” it nonetheless found that Commandments and the “Bible may constitutionally be used in an appropriate study of history, civilization, ethics, comparative religion, and the like.” This is why courses like the Bible Literacy Project you’ve heard me speak about so often, are so important.

And because introducing the Bible to public school students is academically expected and legally supported, our friends at Gateways to Better Education have written a one-page document entitled “School District Guidelines for the Use of Bible Stories in The Classroom.” Gateways is a national ministry with expertise in the much-needed work of equipping Christian parents and teachers in the public schools.

Having a Bible reading policy in place will reduce the “chilling” effect teachers feel from a principal who thinks it is not appropriate to reference the Bible. Your school may be open to implementing these guidelines for two reasons: First, it establishes what is and isn’t appropriate for teachers and guest speakers, and second, it helps protect a school from accusations that it is allowing devotional readings of the Bible as a classroom activity.

Find more student resources at BreakPoint with Chuck Colson

Learn more about student rights in school from the American Center for Law and Justice

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Charles Colson© Prison Fellowship Ministries. "BreakPoint with Chuck Colson" is a radio ministry of Prison Fellowship Ministries. Reprinted with permission of Prison Fellowship, P.O. Box 17500, Washington, DC, 20041-0500."

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