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Bill would replace Bible courses in Ky. schools with 'variety of religious texts'

Valarie Honeycutt Spears, Lexington Herald-Leader on

Published in Religious News

Approximately 10 to 15 school districts in Kentucky are currently offering Bible literacy courses, but a bill introduced in the 2020 General Assembly would replace them with classes on "various religious texts" of the many religions practiced in the state.

State Rep. McKenzie Cantrell, D-Louisville, said she introduced House Bill 243 this week after hearing from the leader of a large Buddhist temple in the district that she serves.

The bill calls for "an elective social studies course on the various religious texts of the many religions practiced in the Commonwealth" replacing language in the current law allowing an elective social studies class on the Hebrew scriptures, Old Testament of the Bible, and New Testament of the Bible.

Cantrell said when the General Assembly authorized Bible literacy courses in 2017, there was an amendment to include other religious texts in the courses, but the amendment failed.

"I am a Christian but represent families of many faiths in a diverse area in the south end of Louisville," Cantrell told the Herald-Leader.

Cantrell said Rev. Thich Hang Dat of Louisville's Buddha Bless Temple reached out to her with his concerns about the legislation that was approved in 2017.

 

"I am, of course, happy to listen and serve all constituents, so that was the genesis of the bill," she said.

Dat said public schools should teach other non-Christian religious courses besides the Bible.

"It's unfair for ... non-Christian students in the public schools because their parents pay taxes and we have to treat every student equally," he said.

Corey Shapiro, the legal director of ACLU of Kentucky, said his organization obtained the estimated numbers of school districts offering Bible literacy courses last summer through the Kentucky Open Records Act and found that between 10 and 15 planned to offer courses in the 2019-20 school year.

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