Bible course in school debate continues |

Bible course in school debate continues

Collin Smith

The Moffat County School District Board of Education heard a proposal to put into curriculum review a new high school elective titled “The Bible in History and Literature” at Thursday night’s meeting.

The board decided to wait to proceed until the 2009-10 school year for the regular curriculum review period for social studies electives.

Moffat County High School Principal Jane Harmon and Social Studies Department Chairperson Jeff Simon recommended the school district wait.

“I think the social studies department and that curriculum committee should give it deliberate thought and research the best material from around the country,” Harmon said. “It’s important that we not just do it, but do it well.”

The course has changed somewhat from the original request made by Debra Powell, who collected 862 signatures for her proposal.

The course is planned to be a comparative religions class instead of focusing on just the Christian Bible, as Powell initially wanted.

Harmon believes this is more akin to how religion classes are taught around the country.

“We felt (comparative religion) is something that is commonly taught in colleges and would best serve our students,” she said.

Jo Ann Baxter, School Board president, agrees with Harmon.

“We need a course in comparative literature, not necessarily the Bible,” Baxter said, “so we can teach our students to better understand the way people think around the world and how it plays into our political life.”

At Thursday’s meeting, Baxter said she personally felt the district needed such a class because of “the state of the world today.”

Powell attended the meeting and agreed. She is disappointed the district will not teach the Bible itself.

“Our kids are hurting, our society is hurting and we are losing our nation,” Powell said. “We’re not trying to indoctrinate. We’re trying to teach history and use (the Bible) as a source.”

Powell insisted it is not right to teach western history and culture without a focus on Christianity.

“Our kids are lost and they have nowhere to go,” she said. “They have no idea where they came from since the Bible was removed from public schools in 1963. It’s a declining trend, and our kids and our nation are going by the wayside.”

Powell based her curriculum proposal on one created by National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, whose Web site maintains it teaches the study of the Bible, not its religious use.

The Web site also claims 395 school districts in 37 states implemented its program.

Mark Chancey, associate professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, contacted the Craig Daily Press on March 1 about NCBCPS curriculum.

“I’m a biblical studies professor : and have studied the National Council on Bible Curriculum in depth,” Chancey wrote in an email. “This group has a goal that goes beyond cultural literacy and education; it is part of a larger movement that wants to end the separation of church and sate. I’m glad the board is proceeding slowly.”

Chancey wrote two reports for a nonprofit religious liberties advocacy group that can be found at, under the Religious Freedom link, and then The Bible and Public Schools. The NCBCPS Web site is

Collin Smith can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 209, or

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