Teaching without Fear, Part 1: The Supreme Court Supports Bible Reading

  Facebook Ad (1)Many people think that the Supreme Court has thrown the Bible out of public schools. They are surprised when they actually look at what the Supreme Court has said. 

The 1963 case that dealt with Bible reading in school is called Abington School District vs. Schempp. The Abington School District is north of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. At the time, Pennsylvania had a law requiring Bible reading at the beginning of each day. A man named Edward Schempp challenged the law and the Court agreed that the state cannot require somebody to read the Bible even if they are Christians - the state should not be in the business of requiring students to be devoted to a particular religious faith.

Since the Pennsylvania Bible reading law wasn't connected to academics but merely an exercise done every morning, the Court decided in an 8-1 decision in favor of respondent, Edward Schempp. It declared this type of Bible reading in the public schools to be unconstitutional. However, it didn't declare all Bible reading unconstitutional.

To clarify that it wasn't ruling out all Bible reading, the Court went on to write:

"...the State may not establish a 'religion of secularism' in the sense of affirmatively opposing or showing hostility to religion, thus 'preferring those who believe in no religion over those who do believe."

Fast forward to today, all these years later, and many teachers and administrators are acting exactly as the court warned against. They are, in a sense, establishing a religion of secularism.

The Supreme Court went on to say:

"[I]t might well be said that one's education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization. It certainly may be said that the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities."

Now, that's not just allowing it, that's encouraging it! That's saying it's worthy of study.

Practical Application

Teachers should not fear using the Bible as an academic reference in the classroom. When relevant to the academic topic I recommend educators cut and paste the appropriate Biblical passage from an online Bible. Put it into a Word document and include two other items: (1) a brief explanation tying the Scripture to the academic topic being addressed, and (2) a quote from their state's academic standard or law that supports the use of the Bible. If the educators' state has no specific reference, I recommend they quote the Supreme Court's supportive statement in Abington School District vs. Schempp.