The contrast between Arizona and Colorado—two states tangent at one point (called Four Corners)—could hardly be greater in the area of religion. Arizona is 71% Christian, 6% Mormon, and less than 1% Jewish. Colorado, on the other hand is 21% No-Religion with 1% Buddhist. Perhaps that is one reason an Arizona state legislator is proposing a bill to allow Bible courses in the schools (traditional public and charter).
Rep. Terri Proud (R-Tucson) is introducing a bill that makes it clear to teachers and the public that the Bible (Old & New Testaments) may be taught as literature and history. (Actually, the chance is extremely remote that it is not already taught extensively in many of the Christian-leaning charter schools in the state; and one doubts that the context is exclusively literature and history.) Five states have laws “allowing” the teaching of the Bible, as literature or history or in a context of culture: Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and South Carolina. In so many ways, Arizona reveals its origins as a state settled a hundred years ago by Southerners moving west.
Rep. Proud acknowledges that such a law is unnecessary because no law exists prohibiting the teaching of the Bible in the manner specified in the bill. However, it is claimed by proponents of the bill that the First Amendment (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”) intimidates teachers who wish to teach the Bible in a non-religious way. Last August, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Idaho Public Charter School Commission acted constitutionally when it ordered the Nampa Classical Academy not to base its curriculum on the Bible. Charter schools nation-wide are likely to be less forthcoming with detailed curriculum plans in the face of such rulings.
Once The Bible as History courses are in full swing in Arizona’s public schools, the high-stakes graduation exam will surely have to be revised to cover this new area of the curriculum:
The book entitled The Bible says that ‘In the beginning God created
- (A) the heavens and the earth.’
- (B) the Grand Canyon.’
- (C) the GOP.’
- (D) the Arizona Diamondbacks.’
Gene V Glass
University of Colorado Boulder
Arizona State University