Mitchell says legislature isn#039;t likely to approve Bible textbook

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 11, 2006

State legislatures want to give local school boards the option to offer a Bible study class as part of their curriculum.

But, according to Sen. Wendell Mitchell (D-Luverne), he isn't too sure conservative Christians will accept a book, entitled &#8220The Bible and its Influence”, as the approved text for Alabama classrooms should the legislation pass.

&#8220I actually got myself a copy of the book,” said Mitchell. &#8220I sat down and read it and there are three or four places in the book which sort of alludes to the Bible being just a good book, and not the inspired word of God.”

The bill, HB-58, has yet to come before the House of Representatives for a vote and Mitchell thinks it could die there.

And while he's long been a proponent of &#8220evening the scale” as far as having students taught both the Theory of Evolution and Biblical creationism, Mitchell said if the current bill included &#8220The Bible and its Influence” as the text of choice, he wouldn't be inclined to support it.

Sponsored by House Majority leader, Rep. Ken Gum, the bill is described by Joe Turnham, Chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, as &#8220an effort to teach students that an understanding of the best selling book of all time and the most widely read work of art is fundamental to an understanding of life as we know it today.”

In an opinion piece circulated to the news media, Turnham attacked Republicans for fighting the bill and said, &#8220cynics, spin doctors, editorial writers, agnostics as well as the Alabama Christian Coalition are skewering this bill and who might get the credit because of the messenger – Democrats!”

He cited a present need for students to understand the Bible and relate its history with current events, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the war in Iraq, Babylon in Biblical times.

&#8220Few students know that the origins of divisions of the world that threaten us with nuclear disaster today in Iran or the brewing conflict between Hamas and Jews over Palestine and the Promised Land has Biblical origins…” he said.

Turnham described &#8220The Bible and its Influence” as a book giving &#8220historical and cultural perspective of the Bible without advocating or establishing religion.”

Therein, said Mitchell, lies the problem. The book, he said, leads the reader to believe the divine aspects of the Bible are fabricated.

&#8220If it comes up for a vote, I'm not sure it will pass,” he said.

Butler County Schools Superintendent Mike Looney said he had no problem with teachers using the Bible as a work of reference in the classroom. But Looney said proposed legislation shouldn't bypass the education department's textbook selection process, as the current bill would do by requiring &#8220The Bible and its Influence” be used a class on Biblical study.

&#8220I would not hesitate to offer any course on the Bible in our classrooms,” said Looney.