In a 1963 case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a required reading of Bible verses in public schools violated the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment. But the ruling in Abington vs. Schempp went on to say objective academic study of the Bible was permissible in public schools.
So, a bill recently introduced in the state Senate that would give Kentucky public schools the option of offering an elective course on the Bible's "content, characters, poetry and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture" probably passes the Abington test at the federal level.
But Kentucky has its own constitutional language regarding the separation of church and state, and Senate Bill 142 may well trip over it.
Section 5 of the state constitution says in part: "No preference shall ever be given by law ... to any particular creed, mode of worship or system of ecclesiastical polity." And one definition of "creed" in the Random House Webster's Collegiate Dictionary is: "an accepted system of religious or other belief."
One could argue then that any public school system in Kentucky offering an elective course "on the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament of the Bible" must also offer elective courses on other accepted systems of religious belief, such as Islam's Quran.
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