The Lafayette County School District has dropped the idea suggested by a school board member of adding a Bible history course to its social studies curriculum, reports Eric Nicholson of the Texarkana Gazette.
Board member Johnny Brown suggested the class at the board’s June meeting. He said that, in the course he envisioned, the Bible would not be used as a religious text but as a means of understanding current events.
According to Brown, the 40-day flood of the Old Testament parallels modern natural disasters and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah demonstrates that homosexuality has been an issue for thousands of years.
“Never was I was trying to promote religion, but I was trying to promote the historical study of the Bible and make a comparison with things that are happening today,” he said.
But after a conversation Monday with the Arkansas Department of Education, Lafayette High School Principal Opal Anderson said the school would not implement the class because it was deemed too theological in nature.
“We’re not going to venture into it,” Anderson said.
Instead, parts of the Bible might be incorporated into comparative literature or social studies classes, she said. She cited parallels, for example, between the flood of Genesis and a similar disaster mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh, a Mesopotamian poem that predates the Bible.
Christopher Barnes, curriculum and assessment program manager for the state Education Department, said only two courses using the Bible have been approved for public high schools in the state, both of them comparative literature classes. Several others have been rejected for having too strong a religious bent.
“What we have seen in the past is that courses that have been approved by the state that deal with the Bible are comparative in nature and show that they’re not indoctrinating students and moving them to a certain way of thinking,” Barnes said.
The state guidelines apply only to courses that are taken for credit toward graduation. Non-credit classes on Bible history or other subjects can be offered at the discretion of the local school board, Barnes said.
The course Brown proposed was based on a curriculum developed by a North Carolina-based group that has successfully implemented Bible history courses in other states.
“I feel like our students are missing out in ethics because of not fearing (and) their parents not fearing the Lord and learning more about Biblical studies,” Brown said.