Ky. puts focus on Bible with new laws, executive action

by Tom Latek/Kentucky Today, posted Thursday, April 13, 2017 (11 days ago)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (BP) -- Having declared 2017 the Year of the Bible, Gov. Matt Bevin has now signed two bills into law to make clear to teachers and administrators that Scripture is welcome in Kentucky public schools.

Matt Bevin
 
Bevin signed legislation into law on Tuesday to allow school kids to take Bible literacy classes as electives. The law directs the Kentucky Department of Education to develop policies that allow public schools to offer Bible courses.

That was one of dozens of bills signed by Bevin on Tuesday.

Last month, the governor signed a bill into law clarifying that students can express religious and political viewpoints in public schools and on college campuses without interference from administrators.

State Sen. Albert Robinson, R-London, sponsored that legislation after a Johnson County elementary school removed biblical references from a presentation of "Charlie Brown's Christmas Carol."

The law affirms rights that were already in place, but that had been misunderstood by some teachers and administrators.

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Robinson said he's felt the legislation was necessary to make clear to educators that biblical references are in no way forbidden from campuses.

Paul Chitwood, executive director of the 750,000-member Kentucky Baptist Convention, said he is glad that Gov. Bevin and lawmakers have enacted these laws "to make clear that the Bible is perfectly acceptable on school campuses and in classrooms."

"Having seen so many students and teachers needlessly hurt by administrators who misunderstood religious liberty protections already in place, I believe these new laws will go a long way to clear misconceptions," he said.

Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, said Bible classes are popular among Kentucky students in schools where they're already offered. And, Carroll said, "the sky didn't fall" because the Bible was being used as a school textbook.

Sen. C. B. Embry, R-Morgantown, said children need a basic understanding of the Bible.

"I don't think there is another document in the history of our culture that has had more impact on our culture, our society or our values than the Bible," Embry said.

The measure had backing from most of the Democrats in the Republican-led Senate, including Robin Webb of Grayson.

"This gives some level of protection to the districts that do this, because it will provide a framework to pass constitutional muster and scrutiny, and requires the Kentucky Department of Education to conform to federal law," she said.

Tom Latek writes for Kentucky Today (www.kentuckytoday.com), a news resource of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
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