This bill would allow public schools to offer elective courses focusing on the study of the Bible in grades six to 12. This bill would also allow public schools to display artifacts, monuments, symbols, and texts related to the study of the Bible if displaying these items is appropriate to the overall educational purpose of the course, and would require the State Board of Education to adopt rules and policies to implement the requirements of the bill.
The bill was pre-filed on January 23, 2019 and assigned to the Education Policy committee in the Senate. A companion bill was also introduced in the House as HB62, which was assigned to the Education Policy committee in the House. It passed unanimously out of the Senate committe on March 20. Two amendments were offered to add language that teachers could not be forced to teach a Bible class, that the school board would not be liable, and that any litigation costs would be paid for by the state. A third amendment was offered after Spring Break to extend the class topic from the "Bible" to the "Bible and religious history." All amendments were adopted.
The Senate voted and passed the bill on April 3, 2019. The bill was scheduled for a public hearing on Wednesday, May 8 in the House Education Policy Committee, which gave it a favorable report. On May 23, it came to the House floor, where two amendments were offered and passed. However, because the House and Senate versions are different, the bill had to go back to the originating chamber to approve the new amendments. The Senate did not vote in favor of the House version, so on May 28, a conference committee was called, comprised of three members from the House and three members from the Senate. On May 30, the committee met and passed a final version, which will now go to Gov. Ivey to sign.
ACLU of Alabama Comment
“While Alabama's schools continue to struggle, we have to wonder why legislators are spending valuable time in session passing a bill to allow public schools to teach Bible classes. This is hardly the solution that public schools and their students need to improve their education, and it will instead set up schools to spend extra money on training teachers to teach these courses in a constitutionally appropriate manner, and if not, waste money on litigating unconstitutional classes that cross the line into religious indoctrination. Legislators should have more faith and let their children's education focus on key skills they need to succeed like math and reading, and trust that religious education is best handled by a child's parents and faith community.”
- 1/30/19 - On the Bible, Trump should listen to Christie [Anniston Star]
- 1/30/19 - Alabama lawmaker files bill to allow Bible classes as elective in public schools [ABC 33/40]
- 2/3/19 - Melson's Bible class bill faces uphill climb [Times Daily]
- 2/12/19 - Alabama lawmakers file bill for elective Bible course in public schools [WSFA]