Students in Texas' public schools are still learning that the Bible provides scientific evidence that the Earth is 6,000 years old, that astronauts have discovered "a day missing in space in elapsed time" that affirms biblical stories of the sun standing still and moving backwards, and that the United States was founded as a Christian nation based on biblical Christian principles.
As more Texas schools are teaching Bible courses, many still fail to adhere to guidelines outlined in House Bill 1287, passed in 2007 to improve the academic quality of elective Bible courses while protecting the religious freedom of students and families, according to a new report by the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund. The study covered the state's 57 districts and three charter schools offering Bible courses in the 2011-12 academic year.
Among the findings from "Reading, Writing & Religion II: Texas Public School Bible courses in 2011-2010," students are being taught:
- "The Bible is the written word of God… The Bible is united in content because there is no contradictions in the writing [sic]. The reason for this is because the Bible is written under God's direction and inspiration."
- "Giving God his rightful place in the national life of this country has provided a rich heritage for all its citizens."
- "Christ's resurrection was an event that occurred in time and space -- that it was, in reality, historical and not mythological (cf. 2 Pet. 1:16)."
- "Survival of the Jewish nations [sic] is one of the miracles of history and her greatest agony is yet to come."
- "The first time the Lord gathered his people back was after the Babylonian captivity. The second time the Lord will gather his people back will be at the end of the age.
- "Sad to say mainstream anti-God media do not portray these true facts [of Moses and the Red Sea crossing] in the light of faith but prefer to sceptically [sic] doubt such archaeological proofs of the veracity & historicity of the Biblical account, one of the most accurate history books in the world[.]
Students are also reportedly being taught the theology of the "end times" and that they may be living in the last days.
“We knew that this was going to be an argument,” Rob Eissler, the former chair of the state House Public Education Committee, told the Austin American-Statesman. “So the approach we took on the Public Education Committee was to make the Bible study course a real course [and] the [Texas Education Agency] would develop a curriculum for it.”
But a letter from Eissler to the TEA said the curriculum they ultimately developed was too vague and failed to include mention of specific religious texts. The broad standards were therefore weak and could not properly prepare educators for unbiased coursework, the Texas Freedom Network said.
Although some Texas districts do adhere to appropriate and merely academic study of the Bible in their courses, most still continue to ignore the law. Mark Chancey, a professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, says Texas public schools must take the study of the Bible's influence as rigidly and seriously as they do science or history.
"But the evidence shows that Texas isn't giving the study of the Bible the respect it deserves," Chancey said in a statement last week. "Academically, many of these classes lack rigor and substance, and some seem less interested in cultivating religious literacy than in promoting religious beliefs. Their approach puts their school districts in legal jeopardy and their taxpayers in financial jeopardy.
The Texas State Board of Education in 2010 also adopted a resolution that sought to limit references to Islam in Texas textbooks, claiming that the materials were "tainted" with "pro-Islamic, anti-Christian distortions.
The Texas Freedom Network's findings come as Arkansas state Rep. Denny Altes introduced a bill this month in his home state that would allow the state's public school districts to adopt a similar elective curriculum for pure academic study of the Bible. The course would "consist of a nonsectarian, nonreligious academic study of the Bible and its influence on literature, art, music, culture and politics" and would "be taught in an objective and non devotional manner with no attempt made to indoctrinate students as to either the truth or falsity of the biblical materials or texts from other religions or cultural traditions."