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Alabama lawmaker files bill to allow Bible classes as elective in public schools

James Nichols via MGN Online

Alabama lawmakers will consider a bill to allow Bible classes in public schools in their upcoming legislative session.

Senator Tim Melson (R- Florence) tells ABC 33/40 he's pushing the bill because teachers in his district want to teach the Bible and don't feel comfortable doing it without a law.

Melson says his bill is modeled after a similar law in Kentucky. It would allow Bible as an elective for grades six to twelve and would require the State Board of Education to adopt rules and policies to implement it.

“If students choose to study Biblical literacy as an elective in school, then there is no reason why that should not be allowed,” Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh said in a statement. “This bill simply allows students to study artifacts, monuments, symbols, and text related to the study of the Bible.”

Earlier this week, President Donald Trump tweeted support for states offering Bible literacy classes in schools.

“I applaud Senator Melson for sponsoring this bill and I thank President Trump for bringing this issue to national attention,” Marsh continued. “I look forward to working on the passage of this bill in the upcoming session.”

Sen. Jabo Waggoner (R- Vestavia Hills) also told ABC 33/40 he supports the measure, as long as it is an elective class. He also wants local school districts to have the final say in if they offer it.

Even with that strong support from Senate leadership, the bill is sure to face fierce opposition.

The Alabama chapter of the ACLU said the bill has “no useful purpose and is an invitation to lure school districts into a false sense of security to take unconstitutional actions.”

The Americans United for Separation of Church and State has also already voiced opposition against the proposal.

“There is a difference between teaching about religion and preaching religion – and make no mistake, these classes are set up with the intent to proselytize students and promote one set of religious beliefs over all others,” said Rachel Laser, the organization’s President and CEO.

"These legislators are turning our public schools into places where too many kids will feel like they don’t belong," Laser continued. "They are also violating the rights of parents to decide what religion, if any, to teach their children.”

Dr. Joe Godfrey calls it an excellent idea. He's the executive director of AL-CAP, representing churches in the Alabama legislature.

“In the early 60’s, we took Bible reading and prayer out of schools and I think we see the result of that in the increase in violence and other problems within the schools,” Godfrey said.

Godfrey said he wants details about the curriculum and guidelines that would be used. But overall, he says he’ll encourage legislators to support Melson’s bill.

“Our culture is founded on biblical principals,” Godfrey said. “A lot of people don’t realize that. But our founding fathers relied heavily on the Bible.”

Melson also filed this bill in 2018's legislative session. He says he filed it too late for it to pass.

This year, Melson's is one of the first bills to be pre-filed for the legislative session, which begins in March.

You can read his bill here.

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