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Senate Education Committee hears proposal to allow the Bible to be taught in public schools.

February 21, 2006
By: John Amick
State Capital Bureau
Links: SB 736

JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri public schools would be allowed to teach about the Bible under a measure presented to the Senate Education Committee Tuesday.

"The Bible is the most quoted text in the history of mankind," said the bill's sponsor -- Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Giradeau.

"I don't think there is any problem incorporating already existing constitutional protection into Missouri statute," the southeastern Missouri lawyer said.

The bill would allow for the Bible to be taught in many subject areas, including, but not limited to, history, literature, or comparative religion courses.

Crowell argued his bill would not violate constitutional requirements for separation of church and state.

"The Constitution allows, allows mister chairman and members of the committee, such a course to be taught," Crowell said.

Crowell said his bill would give school board officials discretion on whether to allow Bible classes and would not be a government mandate.

"This is a local control issue," he said. "I'm not trying to take that away from school boards. I'm just giving them a moderation of protection."

Crowell said he wants this bill to give school boards certainty under Missouri statute to change cirriculuum.

The bill would require "local school boards to approve of the course itself and the context in which the Bible is presented."

The hearing for the bill was swift, with no testimony from any witnesses for or against the bill's context.

In an interview after the hearing, the president the Columbia School Board, J.C. Headley said "our policy is that there is room to teach about religions of the world, as long as there are no preferences shown, nor any derogatory treatment to other particular religions, and that it is not used in a way of evangelization."

Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia said he had no strong opinion for or against the proposal at this point.

The bill will possibly move to the Senate floor in the coming weeks.