Written by Don Byrd
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp this week signed Senate Bill 83 into law. The legislation authorizes public schools to offer elective classes in the Old and New Testament to students in grades 9 through 12, making Georgia the latest in a string of states enacting similar laws – and it is no coincidence. Project Blitz is a much-discussed nationwide legislative initiative encouraging state legislatures to introduce bills that increase the role of religion in public spaces including public schools.
As the Washington Post reports, the model for the Bible class legislation is Kentucky’s, and an investigation into how those courses are being taught there raises concerns about whether instruction crosses the line into improper proselytization.
Here, the report discusses the approach of Todd Steenburgen, who teaches a Bible class elective in Glarsgow, Kentucky:
There is no classroom set of Bibles for every student, no encouragement to download a Bible app on their smartphones. He never assigns chapters or verses to read. Instead, he said, he summarizes biblical stories for them and focuses class time on highlighting connections between the Bible and modern life.
During one class this spring, he spent most of the hour-and-a-half period on a game in which students guessed which theme from the Gospel of Matthew or which blessing from the Beatitudes that Steenbergen meant to connect to when he played clips from country songs and Disney movies.
His consistent message throughout the game was that students should draw moral lessons from the Gospels.
The Baptist Joint Committee joined a coalition of advocates opposed to the coordinated campaign called “Project Blitz” that is pushing such legislation. The coalition warns of the “alarming effort… to harness the power of the government to impose the faith of some onto everyone else, including our public school students.” As Executive Director Amanda Tyler added, “Anything that might send a message to our children that you have to be a Christian to be a full American is extremely problematic.”