A new push to teach the Bible in public schools is gaining momentum. But the two widely available Bible-in-public-schools programs are drawing both religious and secular criticism. Some Christians object to the Bible being taught as literature, not history, while other critics say the Bible has no place as an object of study in public education.

The National Bible Association is sponsoring meetings and training workshops on how the Bible can be taught in public schools without violating U.S. Supreme Court rulings. The association and Freedom Forum's First Amendment Center issued The Bible and Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide to wide endorsements last fall. Groups such as the National Association of Evangelicals, the liberal People for the American Way, and the American Jewish Committee hailed the school guide as a "middle way." President Clinton in December introduced revised guidelines for the teaching of religion in public schools, declaring that a public school should not be "a religion-free zone."

Pilot programs under way

Pilot programs in Pennsylvania, Florida, and North Carolina are now testing how to inform school administrators and teachers on bringing the Bible back into public-school classrooms. "Advocates of religious instruction sense that the climate has changed," one speaker said at a Penn State University seminar.

School administrators overreacted to the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling against prayer in public schools, says Charles Stetson of the National Bible Association. "The idea became popular that you can't have the Bible anywhere in public school."

The result is that several generations of school students have little knowledge about the Bible or its role in American history. Stetson says, "Martin Luther ...

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