A proposal to teach the Bible as literature at Steamboat Springs High School deserves a closer look, but it also deserves to be examined for what it is.
This class isn't about teaching literature, it is about teaching religion -- one specific religion -- in public school. We would encourage those signing petitions in support of this proposal to look closely at the curriculum and consider whether, if religion is to be introduced in our schools, there may be different ways to do it.
The proposed Bible curriculum has been carefully designed to pass constitutional muster. But although the people supporting it say it is an effort to educate students about one of the world's most influential pieces of literature, a quick look at its origins suggests otherwise.
The push to bring the curriculum to public schools has come from churches. The curriculum was developed by a group whose advisory board includes the president of The Campus Crusade for Christ, the chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission and the president of the Mayflower Institute and a Colorado Springs biblical author and adventurer referred to as the "Christian Indiana Jones," to name a few.
Having such a powerful Christian braintrust on the advisory board, along with political leaders, ministers, businesspeople, attorneys and others, indicates not only that the curriculum has been thoughtfully developed, but also that the agenda here is not to provide an unbiased analysis of a piece of literature. This curriculum is a vehicle to introduce more teens to the Bible and Christianity.
We don't specifically take exception with that motive. Perhaps it is something that the community wants. And if it is going to be done, offering the course at the high school as an elective is the most appropriate way to handle the subject.
But we think the purpose of the course should be acknowledged and discussed frankly.
We suggest that if religion is going to be introduced in our public schools, it should be done more broadly than simply focusing on the Bible.
For example, a course in world religion could teach interested students about the Torah, the Quran, the Hindu Vedas, Buddhist texts and other literature with similarly deep historic roots and profound impacts on present society. Such a course could help further understanding of other cultures and religions, something much needed in understanding the geopolitics of the modern world. It would be interesting to see whether a petition drive for a world religion curriculum would meet with the same success as the Bible course.
The petition drive for the Bible course has only just begun, and the ultimate outcome of this effort remains to be seen. But as the process unfolds, we feel it important for proponents of the course to acknowledge what we feel is rather clear. The Bible is an important literary and historical work, but that's not why this curriculum was developed. It was developed to introduce students to Christian beliefs and to advance the agenda of those who think that religion -- specifically Christianity -- should have a greater role in our public schools.
It would be misleading to portray the petition effort any other way.