about Bible Course
Hernando County School Board
received a warning to be careful
as it considers adding a high
school course on the Bible from
People for the American Way, a
Washington-based foundation that
has been involved in several
legal battles over Bible classes
in public schools.
organization cautions the board
that "while students in a
public school may be taught about
the Bible, they cannot be taught
the Bible," in a letter
dated October 19, 2000.
an alternative to school board
member Jerry Milby's suggestion
for a course that focuses solely
on the Bible, People for the
American Way suggest that the
district consider a course on
legal director for People for the
American Way and his deputy who
are the authors of the letter
mention that they were the legal
counsel in a lawsuit against the
Lee County public schools in Fort
Myers when that district tried to
establish an "unconstitutional"
trust that the Hernando County
School Board will not repeat the
mistakes made in Lee County,"
concluded the letter.
"raise the consciousness of
God" in students, Milby
proposed elective Bible courses
in Hernando County's high schools
in October. However, someone else
will have to shepherd this idea.
Milby is not seeking re-election
to a term that ends this month.
In February or March, the school
board's annual review of class
change will occur. Since he had
felt a recent "conviction"
to do so, Milby said he made the
Robert Wiggins, a fellow school
board member, said that he
considers the opposition from
People for the American Way to be
a "friendly reminder to be
careful how you teach this Bible
class, to not step over any
Constitutional lines in the sand,"
even though Wiggins strongly
supported Milby's proposal.
Wiggins said, "Even while I
probably stand on opposite ends
of the spectrum with People for
the American Way, I do appreciate
their perspective. I think they
are just trying to tell us not to
cross the line." The only
board member to advocate a course
that teaches the Bible as a
historical document other than
Milby is Wiggins. However,
Wiggins said he might have to
compromise and accept what he
refers to as his second choice
a course on comparative
religion as he comes to
terms with political reality.
districts in Florida and
Mississippi have already been
taken to court over Bible-curriculum
cases by People for the American
Departments of Education in
Georgia, Tennessee and Florida
have already been successful in
blocking Bible-related courses in
local school districts.
response to a study by People for
the American Way that decried the
Bible course in 14 counties as
unconstitutional, the Florida
Department of Education altered
the way Bible electives can be
a result, the course can be
studied only as literature under
the umbrella of humanities. The
courses were under history
King, "Bible course warning
sounded." People for the
American Way urges caution as the
School Board considers elective
classes in county high schools,"
St. Petersburg Times, October 20,
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Religious Liberty Report