CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ/WTAP) - A bill passed in the West Virginia House of Delegates would allow public high schools to teach from The Bible in an elective class.
“This is setting up the criteria so the county boards know they can offer the course. They don't have to, I mean nobody has to take it. But it does set up the rules and the criteria and establishes that the Bible can be taught in public schools in West Virginia,” said Republican State Senator Mike Azinger.
Azinger sponsored a similar bill in the West Virginia Senate just a couple of years ago. Wednesday, his bill passed in the Senate. Now, each bill is now headed to the other leg of the legislature.
While there is support in the legislature, not everyone agrees with the effort. Some have mixed feelings about it.
“I’m in favor of an elective allowing people to learn more about the Bible because it helps them to learn about our language and our culture. But, I believe there ought to also be a class on comparative religions,” said Pastor Kurt Busiek. “To me, it would be just as important for people to learn about other religions that they may not know about.”
Busiek is the pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Parkersburg. He says one of the most advantageous classes he took in graduate school was a class on comparative religion.
“One of the best classes that actually helped me understand my own faith, what I believe as a Christian, was to compare it to what other religions believe,” said Busiek.
Azinger and Busiek agree that much of American culture was born out of The Christian Faith and note that it could help students learn about history and language
“Our country was founded by people who read the Bible probably more than any other book. So if you’re going to understand the constitution and the bill of rights and the declaration of independence, you need to know the Bible,” said Busiek.
Even though The Bible Bill would allow the bible to taught, Azinger says it won’t allow any evangelizing.
“It’s not taught like it would be taught in Sunday School. There’s no doctrine taught. There’s no evangelizing per say,” said Azinger.
A bill that would allow the Bible to be taught in West Virginia high schools is one step closer to reality.
A bill passed Tuesday in the West Virginia House 73-26 would give school districts the green light to offer Bible courses as an elective in high school.
"Nothing compares to the impact, not even the other religious texts that you are referring to have had near the impact on our culture as the Bible has had," said the bill's sponsor, Delegate Kevan Bartlett, a Republican.
Bartlett says the courses offered would be purely instructional, and it would give students a chance to understand the impact the Bible has on language, the American Constitution and other parts of American culture.
"Theology needs to be done in the church house, but this is acknowledging that the Bible has had an impact," Bartlett said.
Not everyone is on board with the outcome.
Elliot Namay, an Orthodox Christian living in Charleston, argues that you cannot pick and choose religious doctrines covered in schools.
"If we are going to codify the Bible into classes like that ,then we also need to codify the Quoran, Bhagavad Gita, the I Ching, Native-American sacred texts or any sacred texts," Namay said.
Rabbi Victor Urecki of the Congregation B'Nai Jacob Synagogue says to classify sacred texts as literature would mean taking the sacred aspect out of the text itself.
"That's why I would hate to be a teacher trying to go through that minefield of trying to be both respectful of the text but also treat it as literature and a historical document," Urecki said.
He says if one religious text is studied it must cite other sacred religious texts equally.
"You would have to have the right textbook that would talk about all religions as equally significant and equally worthy of study and contemplative research," Urecki said.
The bill now goes to the Senate for debate.