Teaching the bible at public schools in Texas

Mark Chancey, religious studies professor at SMU's Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, wrote an op-ed piece about the varied ways that Bible courses are taught in Texas public schools.

By Mark Chancey

In one recent Texas Bible course, students learned that modern racial groups trace their origins back to Noah's three sons. In another, students considered the pros and cons of different theories regarding when Christians will be "raptured" to Heaven. Elsewhere, students spent two days watching a video exploring the possibility that biblical stories about angels actually record visits by space aliens. Yet another class utilized a resource that suggests God cut off his relationship with Jews because they rejected his son Jesus.

These classes weren't taught in Sunday school or private religious academies. These were all offered in public high schools for academic credit. I had the opportunity to review the materials for 60 courses taught in school districts and charter schools for the report "Reading, Writing & Religion II: Texas Public School Bible Courses in 2011-12," which was recently published by Texas Freedom Network Education Fund. What I discovered was that while such courses are legally required to be religiously neutral and are supposed to be academically rigorous, all too often, the opposite is the case.

To be sure, there were notable success stories, such as the courses taught in Conroe and Goose Creek ISDs. In courses like these, students learned...