FRANKFORT, Ky. – The Bible would take its place among textbooks in Kentucky public schools under legislation that continues to advance through the General Assembly.
House Bill 128, which promotes Bible literacy among students, easily passed the Senate Education Committee on Thursday and now moves to the full Senate for consideration.
“I don’t think there is another document in the history of our culture, that has had more impact on our culture, our society or our values, than the Bible,” said Republican state Rep. DJ Johnson of Owensboro, the bill’s sponsor. “Historically, it is probably the most impactful literary document that’s ever been written.”
Johnson’s bill calls for the Kentucky Department of Education to develop policies that allow public schools to offer elective courses in Bible literacy. Options include Old Testament, New Testament, or both, as a social studies offering.
The measure previously passed the House 80-15.
Johnson has said he believes the measure will improve academics.
“Bible literacy actually results in better grades,” he said. “In an analysis of 11 different studies assessing the effect of Bible literacy on academic achievement, grade point averages of students with a strong level of Bible literacy were anywhere from a quarter point to a full point higher on a four-point grade scale.”
About a dozen Kentucky school districts already offer such classes.
Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, a supporter, said “keeping God and prayer out of our schools for sixty years” has obviously not been in the best interest of students.
The measure has a small but vocal group of opponents in the legislature, including Rep. Attica Scott, D-Louisville, who opposed it in the House.
“It excludes the recognition of other spiritual texts, including the Quran and the Torah,” Scott said. “If we are going to legislate literacy of religious texts in our public schools, then let us be inclusive. If we want our children to learn about religious writing, let it be from multiple texts.”
A proposed amendment that would have expanded the number of religious texts that could be used, as Scott advocated, failed in the House.
In the Senate Education Committee meeting Thursday, Lexington Democrat Reginald Thomas recommended including religious texts from Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
“I think that’s probably better as an educational tool,” Thomas said. “Teaching the Bible is better done in Sunday school.”
Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, said a school in his district already teaches A Bible class.
“I’ve learned it is one of the most popular classes in the high school,” he said. “It’s very successful; the sky didn’t fall with this being taught, and it is very beneficial.”