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Bible study now elective

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The Ellis County Press

AUSTIN – The Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1287 authored in 2007 by Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, to mandate bible study in public schools.

The bill states : (f) The board of trustees of a school district may recommend which version of the Old or New Testament may be used in a course offered by the district under this section, except that:

(1) the teacher of the course may not be required to adopt the board’s recommendation and may use the recommended version or another version; and

(2) a student may not be required to use a specific version as the sole text of the Old or New Testament and may use as the basic textbook a different version of the Old or New Testament from that chosen by the board of trustees or the teacher.

(g) A course offered under this section:

(1) must be taught in an objective and non devotional manner that does not attempt to indoctrinate students as to either the truth or falsity of the Judeo-Christian biblical materials or of texts from other religious or cultural traditions other than the Judeo-Christian tradition;

(2) may not include teaching of a religious doctrine or a sectarian interpretation of the Old or New Testament or of texts from other religious or cultural traditions other than the Judeo-Christian tradition; and

(3) may not disparage or encourage a commitment to a set of religious beliefs.

The final bill approved had a few added safeguards by the House Public Education Committee.

"These committee me-mbers clearly understood that families and churches, not the government, should teach our children what to believe about the Bible," said President of the Texas Freedom Network Kathy Miller.

The committee added the following safeguards:

- measures on teacher training and qualifications,
- requirements for curriculum standards and an actual textbook (rather than using the Bible as a textbook),

- stronger protections for the religious freedom of students and their families, and

- allowing local school officials to decide whether their districts will offer courses about the Bible.

Although some are still skeptical on whether or not mandatory bible study will be forced upon their children due to new state law, Attorney General Greg Abbott said the legislation "authorizes but does not require school districts and charter schools to offer elective courses on the Hebrew Scriptures and its impact, or on the New Testament and its impact."

Many local area districts are seeing an increase in demand for such courses by students.

"The first time we offered it [Bible literature] it just didn’t pick up, now our students find it interesting and want to enroll," said Kathy Cikanek, who focuses on curriculum for Ennis Independent School District.

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