W.Va. public school district halts weekly Bible classes

Source: The Washington Post

A West Virginia public school district has decided to suspend weekly Bible classes for elementary and middle school students for the next academic year while it reviews the content of the lessons.

Mercer County has offered “Bible in the Schools” as an elective during the school day for decades, and the classes are widely popular. But the program has come under fire from opponents who say it violates the Constitution. The Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit in January with two parents of district students in calling for the program to be discontinued. The case is before Judge David A. Faber of the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of West Virginia.

The Mercer school board voted Tuesday to suspend the classes, enabling a thorough review with input from teachers, community members and religious leaders, Schools Superintendent Deborah S. Akers said in a statement. The district also announced a new Bible class for high school students. The class will use “The Bible and Its Influence,” a curriculum in hundreds of public high schools in 43 states. Its publisher bills the textbook as “the only First-Amendment-safe textbook that supports academic study of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.”

Hiram Sasser, an attorney with the First Liberty Institute, representing the school district, said the purpose of the review period is to ensure that all instruction complies with Education Department guidelines and with The Bible and Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide, a 1999 report from the Bible Literacy Project that was endorsed by an array of religious leaders and legal experts.

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