CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – After a sometimes heated debate, the House voted to let individual counties decide if they wanted to have classes on biblical history in public schools. The move is voluntary and the students could decide if they wanted to take the elective courses, or not.
Bill backers say these are to be non-religious history lessons.
“It was the Bible that influenced our country more than any other book,” said Del. Tom Fast, (R) Fayette.
“It allows county school boards if they would choose, to offer an elective course to high school students ninth through twelfth grade, a study of the Bible in its historical, academic, and its literary setting. Not the theology,” said Del. Kevan Bartlett, (R) Kanawha.
But critics worry the Jewish Torah, or the Muslim Koran, were not included in the bill – even though an amendment to do that was offered – a Bible-only bill violates the separation of church and state.
“The message that will be heard is, only Christians are welcome in West Virginia,” said Del. John Doyle, (D) Jefferson.
“The way that they have this bill written, no. It favors one’s beliefs over another and which I think violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the West Virginia Constitution,” said Del. Mike Pushkin, (D) Kanawha.
Bill supporters say those and other religious texts could eventually be included in a broader course on religious studies.
“A similar Bible bill for public schools is being considered in the State Senate. If either Bill becomes law, it’s possible it will be challenged in the federal courts,” said Mark Curtis, 13 News Chief Political Reporter.