School Board Suspends Weekly Bible Classes
Since 1939, Mercer County public schools in West Virginia have offered Bible classes. But the longstanding “Bible in the School” program was just suspended, following the filing of a lawsuit challenging the program’s constitutionality.
The majority of Mercer County elementary schools offer the “Bible in the School” program, along with a few middle schools. It consists of weekly, 30-minute classes on the Bible. The classes are elective, meaning students are not required to participate.
Attack On The Bible Classes
But the program came under review when a parent filed a lawsuit arguing it "endorses one religion, improperly entangles public schools in religious affairs, and violates the personal consciences of nonreligious and non-Christian parents and students."
The complaint also says the Bible classes are basically the same thing as “Sunday school.” However, Jonathan Rockness doesn’t agree.
"As a parent of children who attend both the elective Bible class and Sunday school, I can say there is a big difference between the two," he explained. "In the elective Bible class, they are simply given some basic knowledge of the Bible as a historical document and a collection of literature. They are not taught that the Bible makes any kind of claim on their lives.”
Jonathan also happens to be the pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Bluefield. And he goes on to explain how Sunday school classes are very different.
“On the other hand, in Sunday school, they are taught that the Bible's stories and teachings are beliefs to live by. They are taught that this is the inspired Word of God that makes a claim on what they should believe and how they should live. Anyone protesting that the elective Bible class is akin to Sunday school probably hasn't spent much time in Sunday school.”
Since the filing of the law suit, the school board voted to suspend the classes in elementary schools for the following school year. And for the kids who’ve come to love them, it’s a big disappointment.
“I would not feel very good, because I like the class. Because I learn about, like Jesus, and all that,” third grader Blake Dunngan said in response to the suspension.
However, not all hope is lost. Many from the school board and “Bible in the School” program say this is just a temporary set back.
The attorney defending Mercer County Schools in the lawsuit assures everyone the suspension is only temporary. The purpose is to review the program, not kill it.
“As they do with a lot of their curriculum, they said, ‘Since this is an elective, let’s get some community involvement, to figure out what this curriculum is going to look like in the future,'” explained Jeremy Dys, attorney for First Liberty Institute.
Wayne Pelts has been chairman of the Mercer County “Bible in the Schools” program for about 20 years. And he’s confident the Bible classes will resume the school year following the suspension.
"May I strongly emphasize, the Bible program is not ending," he said. "This is a transition year. Curriculum review will begin very soon. Every plan is to be back in the schools for the 2018-2019 school year."
In fact, the Mercer County school board is actually adding new, optional Bible classes into the high schools in the next school year. Forty students have signed up so far. The classes will meet daily for 90 minutes for a full semester, which is half of a school year.
Believers will always face adversity. Let’s all join in praying for Mercer County public schools as they battle to keep these elective Bible classes going!
WATCH: Mercer Schools Suspend Bible Classes
h/t: WVVA News