Saenz: Don't Restrict Academic Freedom by Opposing Elective Bible Courses

Jonathan Saenz, Free Market Foundation
Published: 04-07-08

Guess what? The Austin American-Statesman editorial board wants to ban your kids from the freedom to choose an elective bible course in school.

That's right, these courses are electives, as in the only students taking them will be those who choose to, no one else, period.

I'm sure you were not completely surprised, though, when you read the recent AAS editorial that was littered with hostility, desperate predictions, their side of the issue and a "we're smarter than you" attitude.

It's a shame that the AAS and other liberal Austin groups want to restrict academic freedom and deprive schools of a huge opportunity to excel.

In fact, in almost 40 states and over 400 school districts in the U.S., including Texas, an elective bible course is being taught in public schools.

Last session, one University of Texas professor testified that an elective course in the history and literature of the bible is the "single greatest thing to do to increase college preparedness" and professors from Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Rice, and Texas A & M, agree an educational advantage exists.

Why, you ask?

The works of Shakespeare have more than 1300 biblical references, and more than 60% of the allusions recommended for study for the AP Literature and Composition exam are from the bible. As for the "tsunami of similar suits" the AAS predicts (which sounds more like their wish than their prediction) and separation of church and state?

Not to worry, the U.S. Supreme Court has said emphatically for the past 40+ years, regarding the Bible in schools, that "the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities."

We hope you were not misled by AAS citing the "legal opinions" of an SMU biblical studies professor who is not an attorney.

What the AAS editorial did not tell you is that this Professor's survey of Texas Bible courses, although paraded as constitutional law, was in fact a subjective test funded by a liberal Austin group dedicated to religious censorship.

To see evidence of this settled area of law, look no further than the Ector County (Odessa, Texas) case highlighted by the AAS, which is the only lawsuit in 70+ years regarding a bible course in Texas public schools.

The AAS did not tell you that it was the ACLU who sued Ector County and wanted to prevent kids in a public school from choosing to read out of the Bible. Remember this is the same out-of touch group that protects pornography online in public school libraries.

Let's see, pornography in schools-yes, bible-no. Bizarre. It's a shame they had to bring their New York lawyers to Texas, only to give up and settle the case, agreeing to let the school district have a bible class where the bible is the main textbook.

As for costs to taxpayers brought up by the AAS? We defended the school district for free. As for the State Board of Education's decision in this matter, the Board voted 13-2 (that includes some non-"religious conservatives"), and the Texas House and Senate vote on this law was a bipartisan total of 167-3 to approve the teaching of these elective courses.

It's a shame that those with little or no training and experience in these important areas of law and policy want to take away your choice.

Our Texas children deserve better.

Saenz is the director of Legislative Affairs for the Free Market Foundation.