Politics & Government

House panel gives blessing to Bible literacy classes in public schools

Rep. DJ Johnson, R-Owensboro, says his bill to allow Bible literacy classes in public schools is needed to help students understand its impact on culture.
Rep. DJ Johnson, R-Owensboro, says his bill to allow Bible literacy classes in public schools is needed to help students understand its impact on culture. jbrammer@herald-leader.com

Students in Kentucky public schools may soon be learning in their classrooms about Daniel in the lion’s den, Samson’s long hair, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus and other stories in the Bible.

A House panel Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a bill to allow local school districts to offer elective social studies courses on Hebrew scriptures and the Bible. A similar bill, Senate Bill 138, is in the Senate.

House Bill 128, sponsored by Rep. DJ Johnson, R-Owensboro, cleared the House Education Committee Tuesday with only one “no” vote. It was cast by Rep. Attica Scott, D-Louisville. Rep. Reginald Meeks, D-Louisville, passed on his vote, a move to keep the bill off the House’s consent calendar so a roll-call vote must be taken.

Johnson, a car wash manager, said students need an understanding of the Bible to realize “the impact the Bible has had on our culture today.”

He told reporters after the committee meeting that school districts would have to make sure teachers are qualified to teach the Bible. He said the bill requires the state Department of Education to come up with regulations and the courses would have to follow all federal and state laws in maintaining religious neutrality and accommodating diverse religious views of students.

If the teacher starts evangelizing in favor of Christianity, a parent could raise concern with the school board, Johnson said. But he quickly added that he does not expect that to happen.

The Kentucky Council of Churches has expressed concern that the bill may not require qualified teachers for religious education. The ACLU of Kentucky has said it will help students and parents to understand their constitutional rights if the bill becomes law.

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198, @BGPolitics

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