The Virginia state senate on Monday passed a bill that would allow Bible teaching in public high schools.
By a vote of 22-18 lawmakers passed legislation authorizing local school boards to offer for-credit elective classes “to introduce students to biblical content, characters, poetry, and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture, including literature, art, music, mores, oratory and public policy.”
Senate Bill 1502 would require the Virginia Board of Education to develop learning standards and curriculum guidelines for the course. No such course, it says, “shall endorse, favor, promote, disfavor, or show hostility toward any particular religion or nonreligious perspective.”
Virginia is one of a number of states considering “Bible literacy” bills allowing more students to study the Old Testament and New Testament based on model legislation by the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation, WallBuilders and other evangelical Christian political groups.
The 116-page Project Blitz playbook packages 20 seemingly unrelated bills ranging from requiring public schools to display the national motto “In God We Trust” to making it harder for LGBTQ persons to adopt a child.
Religious liberty watchdog groups including the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty recently labeled Project Blitz “a new and coordinated national effort to enshrine Christian nationalism in state laws across the country.”
A group of Baptist ministers spoke in opposition to the Virginia bill in a committee hearing last week. Jonathan Davis, pastor of Beale Memorial Baptist Church in Tappahannock, Virginia, called it a “decidedly backward step for religious liberty” and a “gross violation” of the First Amendment ban on establishing a religion.
“As a parent of three boys and a person of faith, it is my sole responsibility to instill Bible teaching and understanding to my children,” said Davis, an opinion writer published by Baptist News Global. He also argued that the Bible cannot be taught “in a purely secular manner,” because of the Good Book’s “sacred and holy nature.”