Monday, March 24, 2008

Odessa Texas School Board Agrees to Stop Teaching Unconstitutional Bible Class

Public school boards in Texas may offer Bible classes, but only if they are objective and unbiased. The Bible course offered up in Odessa offended Catholics, Jews, the non-religious, other religions, and even many Protestants. Link above is to the victorious People for the American Way(PFAW) and ACLU's joint press release.
Douglas C. Hildebrand, an ordained elder and deacon at a local Presbyterian Church and one of the longtime Odessa residents who was a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said it is inappropriate for one set of religious beliefs to be promoted over others.

“Religion is an essential component of my life and the life of my family, but this course did nothing more than advocate certain religious views that are not shared by everyone,” Hildebrand said. “It seems as though a church had invaded the public school system — and it wasn’t my church.”
Those damn heathen Presbyterians spoiling the fundies fun.

Other links: NYT:
The complaint said that the district empanelled a committee to research a suitable instructional model, and that the panel overwhelmingly endorsed the Bible Literacy Project curriculum, whose approach is secular and widely used in other districts.

But the school board chose materials from the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools. The suit asserted that the council did not teach the Bible in an objective way. The council says on its Web site that its materials are taught in 430 school districts in 37 states.

When the Ector County district approved the council’s curriculum, the suit said, the district’s director of curriculum and instruction, Shannon Baker, celebrated the decision in an e-mail message, which read in part, “Take that, you dang heathens!”
Midland Reporter-Telegram points out opposing lawyers disagree fundamentally over what the settlement says:
Liberty Legal Institute Director of Litigation Hiram Sasser, representing ECISD, and Judith E. Schaeffer, legal director for People for the American Way in Washington, D.C., are pleased with the settlement.

"It's a great victory for ECISD because they're going to get to continue having a Bible course. They're going to develop their own curriculum the way they want to do it without anybody getting in their business. They're going to have the Bible as the primary textbook. That's the most important thing. It's the thing the community wanted," Sasser said.

"ECISD is free to use whatever curriculum materials they want in the development of their course. Their new curriculum can use National Council materials that they had used before. They are free from outside pressure so they can develop the course as they see fit and with the Bible as the primary textbook."

Schaeffer said the agreement does not mean the district can use whatever curriculum it wants.

"The settlement, which the board overwhelmingly adopted, prohibits the (district) from teaching Bible course using the National Council curriculum," she said. "The goal of the lawsuit was achieved in this settlement. This is the relief plaintiffs were asking for in the litigation."

"We will all be monitoring this," Schaeffer said.
North County Gazette, NY
A favorite cause of some conservative Christian advocacy groups, the National Council claims that its materials are being taught in 430 school districts in 37 states. That’s an unverifiable statistic because the council won’t tell you where the schools are located.
Right now there are seven lucky educatorss trying to decide what their own local "objective" course next year will include. Will it still rely on every word in the Bible, even the changed and added ones, being literally true? Hard to say based on the agreement(pdf). It only requires that they use more than one Bible translation. The right is also crowing over this victory over the ACLU, not understanding the ACLU has also defended religious speech on campuses and various right-wing conservatives and it's only mission is defending the constitution.

Mildly related - Amy Sullivan says get ready for the religious left.

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