Michelle Diehl loves the public schools, but to give her children a well-rounded education, she wants them to offer a Bible course.
With support from enough of the community, Diehl and others hope such a class soon will become reality in the Steamboat Springs School District.
Diehl, the mother of two elementary school students, and fellow parent Roger Johnson are spearheading the effort by circulating petitions at various Steamboat Springs churches in hopes of collecting 500 signatures to present to Superintendent Donna Howell and the Steamboat Springs School Board.
"I'd like to see it in there from a historical point of view," said Diehl, a former middle school social studies teacher. "It's such a fine piece of literature. If you can detach from the Christianity thing and look at the stories and their impact on Western civilization, it's just amazing."
The Bible course that Diehl and Johnson want added is called "The Bible in History and Literature" and is based on curriculum authored by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, a North Carolina-based organization. The course has been adopted by 292 school districts in 35 states, according to the council's Web site.
According to the petition being circulated in at least six local churches, the course's objectives are to:
n Equip students with a fundamental understanding of the important literary forms contained in the Bible as well as people and symbols often referred to in literature, art and music.
n Equip students with a fundamental understanding of the influence of the Bible on history, law, American community life and culture.
n Give insight into the world views of America's founding fathers and understanding the Biblical influences on their views on human rights.
n Provide a greater knowledge of Middle Eastern history, geography, religion and politics.
n Inform students of the importance of religion in world and national history without imposing the doctrine of any particular religious sect.
The petition, which was prepared by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, also states the course fully complies with the Constitution and provides a unique and valuable service to the community.
"I feel pretty comfortable that it is free of Christian bias,"' said Diehl, who attends Euzoa Bible Church. "I do not want to see any kind of conversion going on."'
Parents, and only parents, should be the ones teaching religion to their children, she said.
Public schools can't provide religious instruction, but they can teach about religion, according to guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Education. Teaching about religion includes the Bible and other scripture, the history of religion, comparative religion, the Bible as literature and the role of religion in the history of the country and other countries. Classes can't indoctrinate or promote a particular religious belief.
Rob Ryg, Euzoa's pastor, said there's no downside to an elective class about the Bible.
"It's the most popular book in the world," Ryg said. "It seems strange to me it wouldn't be taught as a piece of literature. I don't know what the fear of it would be as long as there is no indoctrination."
Teaching students about the Bible also could expose them to new ideas, such as that of creationism. Evolution, Ryg said, is taught as fact instead of theory. He wonders why creationism can't be taught side by side evolutionism so that students can make up their own minds.
Superintendent Howell said she would encourage the group to continue with its petition drive and to present its wishes to the School Board. She also said the district is in the process of implementing new curriculum procedures. A high school curriculum committee has had the authority to create new course offerings.
"Ultimately, I believe as we move forward that the School Board will make final decisions in terms of curriculum,"' Howell said.
Diehl said she hopes the proposal for a Bible class won't bring trouble for the district.
"I don't want problems for the School Board," she said. "I love our school district. I think it's doing the best job it can. I hope they're not going to look at this like another rebel trying to make their jobs harder."
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