By Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
The question of whether the Bible becomes part of classroom study is now in the hands of Gov. Jan Brewer.
Without comment, the Arizona Senate on Thursday gave final approval to legislation that allows schools to offer an elective in high school on how the Old and New Testaments have influenced Western culture. The vote on HB 2563 was along party lines, with Republicans in favor and Democrats against.
Rep. Terri Proud, R-Tucson, said her measure is not an attempt to introduce religion into classrooms. Instead, she said it is a simple recognition that the Bible has been a factor in civilization.
Under the terms of the legislation, courses would familiarize pupils with the contents, characters, poetry and narratives that will help create a better understanding of literature, art, music and more. And students would be told the influence of the Bible on laws, history and government.
The measure contains a requirement for any course to be legally reviewed to ensure that it does not run afoul of the First Amendment requirements dealing with freedom of religion. And there is a mandate that classes comply with all state and federal laws and guidelines to maintain religious neutrality “and accommodating the diverse religious or nonreligious views, traditions and perspectives of pupils.”
But the law covers only the Old and New Testaments and does not include other religious books.