New forum mulled for rejected Bible class

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A day after the Steamboat Springs School Board rejected an elective high school class using the Bible as its main text, a parent who led support for the class said he hoped to see it taught elsewhere.

"I would still like to see this considered on some level," Roger Johnson said. "We may make the class available to the public at large."

The class, "The Bible in History and Literature," uses a curriculum designed by North Carolina-based National Coun-cil on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools. Supporters say it is a history-based class that does not indoctrinate students in the Christian religion but teaches about the Bible's influence on U.S. government, law, literature, art and culture.

Johnson, a real estate developer whose twin daughters graduated from the high school in 2005, along with parent Michelle Diehl officially proposed the class to the School Board in December. Johnson and Diehl attend Euzoa Bible Church, a nondenominational congregation on Routt County Road 38.

The School Board voted unanimously Monday night against bringing the class to the high school. Board members said it would undermine the district's commitment to diversity and teach curriculum that is, at least in part, covered during the study of subjects including geography, civics, world history and Advanced Placement English.

"I just don't see how that (diversity) works within this curriculum," Tom Miller-Freutel, president of the School Board, said before his vote.

On Tuesday, Johnson said opening the class to the public could be a good way to gauge interest and test the curriculum firsthand.

"I think that might be an interesting way to get reaction," he said. "I would like to see the curriculum judged more fairly."

Johnson said he and another advocate of the class are considering having it taught one night a week at a neutral location such as a community center.

"I wouldn't hold it in a church," he said.

Johnson said the class was not given a fair shake at Monday's meeting.

"I'm more disappointed in the format of the meeting than the outcome," he said. "We were supposed to be able to make a presentation first."

A presentation of the curriculum, he said, would have helped School Board members and the nearly 100 members of the public in attendance to better understand the class.

"I have no way of knowing how many members of the School Board even went through the curriculum," Johnson said. "School Board members are busy, just like everybody else. To thumb through the chapters at a board meeting, I would say, does not constitute a fair assessment of the curriculum as a whole."

School Board member John DeVincentis, former principal of Strawberry Park Elementary School, said before his vote Monday that after a thorough review of the curriculum, the decision was difficult for him because he was raised in a Catholic family and his parents read the Bible to him every night.

"In a way, I see (the class) as a kind of ethnocentricity," he said. "It doesn't create a better understanding of everybody's beliefs."

Board member Pat Gleason said it was a tough choice, as well.

"There is no doubt in my mind of the value the Bible had in the founding of our country," he said. "The book's value does not necessarily lie in a literary sense -- it lies in a religious context."

Johnson said Tuesday that he respected the process the curriculum went through.

"The system works," he said. "It was a public forum and a public debate, and a decision was made by the School Board accordingly."

-- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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