Starting this year, Alabama public-schooled students will study the Bible with the State Board of Educations' unanimous approval. Alabama is the first state to approve the Bible Literacy Project's textbook, The Bible and its Influence, as part of its state curriculum.
Sheila Weber, Vice President of Communications for BLP, told WoW the BLP created the textbook "to give school boards a greater level of confidence, so they could see exactly how the subject matter was being presented." The Bible and its Influence takes a non-devotional, academic approach to studying the Bible. It walks students through the Old and New Testaments, with side explorations of topics like "Milton and the Bible," "Exodus and Emancipation," and "Freedom and Faith in America."
Any Bible textbook must walk a shaky wall between church and state. Forty scholars -- Catholic, Jewish, Evangelical, mainline Protestant, and Orthodox - reviewed the textbook before publication. The book has won endorsements from evangelicals like Chuck Colson, Vonnie Bright from Campus Crusade for Christ and Jamie Crouse from Concerned Women for America. TIME Magazine has also praised it, and Charles Haynes, senior scholar with the First Amendment Center, reviewed and endorsed it.
According to San Diego Union Tribune, Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church called the textbook one-sided: "To teach religion objectively, you really have to teach the good, the bad and the ugly and this book only teaches the good." The book's introduction tells students, "You will not be pressed into accepting religion. You will study about religion as presented in the Bible, but you will not be engaged in the practice of religion." Earlier critics pointed to factual errors in the textbook, but a second printing has addressed concerns.
Only 8 percent of public schools offer an elective course on the Bible. Now that 160 schools have implemented The Bible and its Influence and 2,000 educators are reviewing it, that statistic may change.