Action Alert

Religion and education do NOT go together

Give feedback to the Kentucky Department of Education

Please give your feedback for the Kentucky Department of Education’s proposed standards to teach the bible in the state’s schools.

The department is seeking feedback on its proposed Bible Literacy Standards after Kentucky recently passed a bill (HB 128) allowing the bible to be taught in public schools.

All comments must be submitted by December 10.

Although FFRF remains strongly opposed to states mandating that a particular religious text be included in public school curricula, the proposed standards are not terrible and are better than some we’ve seen. The real worry will be how they are implemented and what safeguards will be put into place to protect the rights of students.

In addition to the suggestions below, we encourage you to include a comment explaining that it is unconstitutional, even under any state educational standards, to take students to Ken Ham’s Ark Encounter, given its clear evangelistic goal. You might say:

These standards should include clear guidance for school districts that field trips to the Ark Encounter in Williamstown, K.Y., are still prohibited. The proprietor of that park has been clear about its evangelistic goal: “The [Creation] Museum and the Ark direct people to the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Any public school taking students to the ark park is exposing those students to deliberate proselytization and violating their rights.

We also encourage you to include comments explaining generally that the bible must be taught from an objective perspective that analyzes the negatives alongside the positives.

The survey to complete your comments can be found here.

After answering 3 short questions about your interest, you’ll be prompted to critique each standard as “okay” or “needs revision.” If you think it needs revision, space is given to explain why. The standards we think need at least some input, as numbered in the online survey, appear below with our suggested comments.


7. Standard Two: Engage in academic analysis of biblical texts and relevant scholarship.

Suggested Comment:

Academic analysis must include criticism of the bible, including criticism of its provenance and the truth of the stories it relates. “Academic analysis” and “relevant scholarship” are terms that could be used to smuggle in Christian apologetics, which would violate students’ rights of conscience. For instance, traditionally it is claimed that Moses authored the Torah (or Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible), but most of the scholarly community rejects this claim for most of those books. Thus, scholarship actually refutes the bible here.

As another example, there is no solid historical, archaeological, or linguistic evidence to support the Exodus story. This, too, refutes the historicity of the bible, but if academic analysis and scholarship are to be included in the course, so must the fact that there was no mass exodus of Jews from Egypt of the kind portrayed in the bible.

8. Standard 2.a: Analyze primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as date and origin of information, and connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.

Suggested Comment:

This should include important information, such as none of the stories mentioning Jesus being written until, at the earliest, about 40 years after his supposed death and resurrection. It should also include explanations of how the bible was written, rewritten, translated, and retranslated throughout the years and how, as scholars explain, some texts were just added by scribes, including the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery. There should also be lessons on the non-canonical books and about the church councils that decided which books were in and which were cut out.

10. Standard 2.c: Examine, compare and contrast various cannons [sic], translations and versions.

Suggested Comment:

First, it’s “canons,” not “cannons.” More importantly, this should include a discussion of the various versions of the Ten Commandments: within a single bible, between different translations, and between different religious traditions. In any given bible there are four sets of ten commandments (Ex. 20 and 34; Deut. 5 and 27). The first set is not even referred to as the “Ten Commandments,” the second set is. Different religious traditions number the commandments differently (because there is no numbering in the biblical text). Different religions and bible interpretations also interpret the commandments differently. The ban on graven images is also interpreted as a ban on idols and this discrepancy split Christendom in the eighth and ninth centuries in what has come to be known as the Iconoclasm Controversy.

11. Standard Three: Explore relevancies of the Bible to contemporary society and culture, including literature, art, music, mores, oratory, government and public policy.

Suggested Comment:

This must include the negative influences of the bible alongside any positive ones. For instance, the bible was the primary justification for slavery in America. The bible has also proved to be the primary justification against women’s rights and interracial and gay marriage.

12. Standard 3.a.: Make connections between biblical events and people to a different historical context, geographical area, period or era including the present.

Suggested Comment:

This is vague. Many biblical events are mythical whereas people in the historical context are clearly not. This should include inconsistencies between biblical events and historical events, such as the biblical “great flood” supposedly covering the globe in water at a time that historians documented other civilizations continuing to live on land without any report of a great flood. This should also include the historical anachronisms of the bible, see, e.g., https://www.npr.org/2014/02/14/276782474/the-genesis-of-camels.

13. Standard 3.b: Describe and explain the influences of biblical allusions in the development of religious and secular beliefs, behaviors, and senses of belonging in contemporary culture and communities.

Suggested Comment:

Influences should be similar for both positive and negative developments. There is also a grave danger here that teachers will overstate the case. For instance, “do not murder” appears in the Ten Commandments, but it is a universal human principle that has been adopted by every successful society we know of, regardless of their familiarity with the bible. Basic prohibitions on murder, theft and lying are not based in religion, but in our humanity. These are human impulses of which religion is but one manifestation. There is a danger that teachers will do what many evangelists do and flip this script, saying that religion is the source of these bans.

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