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Few public schools offering Bible class

POSTED: December 30, 2008 5:00 a.m.
ATLANTA - Few Georgia high schools are offering Bible classes two years after legislators made the state the first in the country to allow the topic as an elective course.

Georgia educators say students are more interested in taking SAT prep classes than Bible courses.

Many districts say students don't want to take a non-devotional course about the Bible. And some districts have avoided offering the classes because of concerns about lawsuits.

During the 2007-08 school year - the first year the state allowed the classes - just 37 of the Georgia's 440 high schools offered Bible as an elective. The state won't have numbers for this school year until June.

Some districts say they'd rather leave that instruction to the church. Other districts say they don't have the extra money for materials and staffing of a class on the Bible.

"The kids seemed to enjoy last year but who knows what happened this year," South Effingham High School Principal Daniel Noel told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "We'll try to offer it again next year but there's a lot of competition. Kids wants to take an SAT prep course or some other elective."

The Guyton school had 120 students take Bible classes last year. This year fewer than 10 signed up, so the school didn't offer the classes, Noel said.

The two approved classes - "Literature and History of the Old Testament Era" and "Literature and History of the New Testament Era" - are treated as English electives. The state does not provide specific lessons, and schools must provide their own teaching and training for the classes.

Supporters say fully understanding history, literature and political science - from the writings of Martin Luther King Jr. to the war in Iraq - requires knowledge of the Bible. But critics including the American Civil Liberties Union fear the classes could easily turn into endorsements of Christianity.

A state lawmaker who supported the new law told the Journal-Constitution that more districts would offer the courses if they were promoted.

"You've got to convince these school boards to do it but they're reluctant because they're so afraid of lawsuits," said state Senate Majority Leader Tommie Williams, a Republican from Lyons who sponsored the bill authorizing the classes. "This has nothing to do with proselytizing. My intention is for people to become literate of the Bible and its influence on society."


 

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