The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation is opposing a proposed Bible class in an Arkansas school district.
The class is the idea of Bentonville School Board member Brent Leas, who has recommended adding an elective academic bible study class to the 2017-18 curriculum.
"This is just an opportunity for us to just have the Bible as an open elective course for those students who would be interested in knowing more about the Bible and its historical and literary context," Leas recently told 5News in Arkansas. Leas argues that the class would be permissible under Arkansas Act 1440, which was passed in 2013 and allows public school courses on the Bible provided that they are academic and offered as an elective.
On May 9 Freedom From Religion co-president Anne Lauie Gaylor sent a letter to the members of the Bentonville School Board. It reads in part:
We write to inform you that bible classes in Bentonville schools - even those proposed under state law - are legally problematic under federal constitution and at odds with the basic notion that public schools do not play religious favorites. It is also at odds with Article II, Section 24 of the Arkansas Constitution, which guarantees that "not preference shall be given, by law, to any religious establishment, denomination, or mode of worship above any other..."
Finally, the Christian bias implicit in this proposal is apparent. If the board believes that District students would benefit from a deeper understanding of holy books that millions of Americans find meaning in, then there is no reason not to also create classes studying the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, the Tipitaka, or, perhaps, Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion.
The Bentonville School Board is expected to discuss the proposal for the new course at their next meeting in June.