Houston The Lone Star state could become the first in the nation to require all public high schools to offer an elective course on the Bible if a bill currently pending in the Texas Legislature becomes law.
Hearings continued this week on the proposed legislation, which mandates that all Texas school districts teach courses on "the history and literature of the Old and New Testament eras" if at least 15 students sign up for it.
Rep. Warren Chisum, the west Texas lawmaker and Baptist Sunday school teacher who wrote the bill, said the course will not treat the Bible as a "worship document." Rather, the class will promote religious and cultural literacy by "educating our students academically and not devotionally," he said.
Although the bill says the classes are to be taught in "an objective and nondevotional manner," it does not provide for state funding or special training for school districts and teachers. This is a problem because most high school teachers aren't qualified to teach the Bible as a historical or literary text, said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, a watchdog group.