Two West Virginia senators have proposed a new legislation that would require public and private schools in the state to offer an elective course on the Bible.
Senate Bill 252, sponsored by Senators Mike Azinger (R-Wood) and Sue Cline (R-Wyoming), would require West Virginia schools to offer a course that would teach students about Hebrew scriptures, the Old Testament, or the New Testament of the Bible.
The bill states that the elective course would "teach students knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture."
Under the proposal, students will be allowed to use a translation of their choice, and the schools offering the course will be required to follow federal and state laws regarding religious neutrality while accommodating the diverse religious views of students.
The measure also states that the course "may not endorse, favor, or promote, or disfavor or show hostility toward, any particular religion or nonreligious faith or religious perspective," according to federal law.
Azinger contended that the Bible is a fundamental part of American history, adding that the country's laws are modeled after its statutes. He went on to note that schools were formed with the desire to teach children to read the Bible and colleges were established with the Scriptures as their foundation.
According to Local 8, the bill has been sent to the education committee for consideration. If passed, the course will be offered only to those interested.
In November, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by an atheist organization against a West Virginia school that offered an elective Bible course.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sued Mercer County Schools in 2017 over its "Bible in the Schools" (BITS) program, which has existed since 1939. The group filed the suit on behalf of local residents whose children attended the schools where the Bible class was offered.
"This program advances and endorses one religion, improperly entangles public schools in religious affairs, and violates the personal consciences of nonreligious and non-Christian parents and students," the lawsuit stated.
The lawsuit claimed that offering the Bible course subjected children to the risk of ostracism by opting out of the class.
Mercer County's board of education decided to suspend the program in May for at least a year, pending a review and possible revision of its course content.
District Court Judge David A. Faber dismissed the lawsuit in November, citing the suspension of the program. In his ruling, Faber noted that the district court is "more than capable of granting a preliminary injunction" if the program resumes.