The Freedom From Religion Foundation is opposing a proposed bible class in an Arkansas school district.
Bentonville School Board member Brent Leas has recommended adding an elective academic bible study class to the 2017-18 curriculum. He is justifying it under Arkansas Act 1440, which was passed three years ago.
FFRF contends that such classes violate the notion that public schools should not play favorites when it comes to religion. And they are legally problematic under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the Arkansas Constitution.
"Such a course is at odds with Article II, Section 24 of the Arkansas Constitution, which guarantees that 'no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment, denomination or mode of worship above any other,'" FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor writes to the Bentonville School Board.
Besides, federal courts have a number of times ruled against schools for allowing proselytization to seep into the classroom.
The Christian bias in such a course proposal is obvious. If the Bentonville School District feels that its students will benefit from a deeper understanding of different belief systems, why has it not proposed classes on the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita or, indeed, Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion"?
Certainly in theory, a bible course may be permissible as part of a public high school curriculum, but, in practice, such classes are rarely taught in a legal manner, FFRF asserts. Southern Methodist University Professor Mark Chancey did a study in 2013 of bible classes that Texas had introduced six years before and found that many of them "are blatantly and thoroughly sectarian, presenting religious views as fact and implicitly or explicitly encourage students to adopt those views." The study surveyed bible courses in 57 school districts and found that a lot of the materials "are written specifically for Christian audiences for the purpose of strengthening their faith."
FFRF asks the Bentonville School District not to inject religion into the city's public school system.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is dedicated to the separation of state and church, with 23,800 nonreligious members nationally, including more than 100 in Arkansas.