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. It will now have to receive a favorable report from the House committee. The bill is scheduled for a public hearing on Wednesday, May 8.
ACLU of Alabama Comment
“We are disappointed that Alabama lawmakers chose to pass a bill that does nothing to help our public schools or their students. Religious education is a deeply personal matter that is best kept as a private decision. Public schools are already charged with ensuring our children have an understanding of core subjects like math, science, and history. Instead of asking educators to take on the additional task of religious education, Alabama lawmakers should let schools focus on preparing their students with the knowledge they need to succeed in college and careers, and let families and parents determine what kind of religious education they want for their child on their own time.”
- 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]