Written by Don Byrd

Last week, the Kentucky Education Board unanimously passed new standards to guide school districts in implementing the state’s Bible literacy classes. A state law enacted last year required the Board to create the classes, which were quickly criticized in many school districts around the state for promoting, rather than teaching about, religion.  

The ACLU earlier this year issued the results of a statewide survey of the classes which they say often more closely resemble “Sunday School” than a public school curriculum. And while the new standards do not attempt to create a curriculum, they do guide schools and teachers in developing the courses.

Here is the list of standards, as reported by the Louisville Courier-Journal

 Disciplinary Literacy

  • Analyze literary aspects of the Bible.
  • Determine and analyze the themes, concepts, figures, places and events depicted in biblical texts.
  • Recognize and analyze various literary forms and genres found in biblical texts.
  • Identify and analyze figurative language and literary structures in biblical texts.

Historical Thinking

  • Analyze the interplay of economic, political, social, geographical, historical, cultural, linguistic and anthropological impacts on the development of biblical texts.
  •  Examine biblical texts considering a variety of textual elements.
  •  Analyze biblical texts, engaging in the skills of sourcing, close reading, contextualizing and comparing.
  •  Compare and contrast various Bible versions to analyze the contextual influences of canons, translations and editions.

Analyzing Influences

  • Analyze the relationships between the Bible and society and culture.
  • Examine the influence of the Bible on historical, political and social movements and realities.
  • Analyze influences of the Bible on the development of religious and secular identities.
  • Determine the interplay between the Bible and cultural expressions through the examination of a variety of literature, art, language, oratory and music.

Classes about religion and religious traditions can be a successful and important element of public education. But a class focused on one religious perspective, or promoting a religious message or observance risks the state’s religious neutrality, which is central to its protection of the religious liberty rights of all students.

For more on ways that religion *can* be used properly in public schools, see the Baptist Joint Committee’s Guide to Religious Liberty in Public Schools.