LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - A Bible course could be an elective in more Arkansas schools.
House Bill 1017, sponsored by Rep. Denny Altes (R-76) would allow school districts to adopt curriculum for academic study of the Bible. The bill states Bible teachers would not be hired based on a religious test, profession of faith, or religious affiliation, or lack thereof.
"God should never be taken out of the schools," said Martha Williams-McMurrian.
McMurrian doesn't hide her faith. In fact, along with being a full-time grandmother she spends most of her time sharing her faith. McMurrian is thrilled house legislation could help Arkansas schools study scripture.
Dr. Laura Bednar with the Department of Education said schools already have that option.
"That may be where some additional conversation on our part of that may be helpful. Sometimes I believe we can legislate too much," said Bednar.
Sponsor of the bill, Representative Denny Altus, said it will support the current system and that's just fine for McMurrian.
"As an elective that's a good thing. You know they get to decide," said McMurrian, but not all agree with her. The THV Facebook page blew up with more than 700 comments.
Alex wrote: "Unless your going to offer ALL religions as a course, your doing notthing but brainwashing."
Warren wrote: "Oh no! If your going to teach from a Christian Bible...you must give equal time to the Koran and the Hebrew Bible! A public school is not and should not be a Christian School.
To start a new class, districts must get state approval whether it's bible, a new math class, or art. They must create a curriculum, submit it to the state, and the curriculum office will either give it the go-ahead or deny their request.
"Then we can give the district feedback. Normally once they submit the course, and our state team has time to look at that; hopefully it won't take longer than several weeks," said Bednar.
McMurrian said a bible course could help her grandkids' outlook.
"It might peak their interest a little more. I think it will make them want to go to school more," said McMurrian.
THV 11 reached out to UALR School of Law to see if this process is legal under separation of church and state. We're told this is a slippery slope, but the way the bill reads now, it does not break the law. The study of the bible must be non-religious and strictly focused on literature, history, and other academic avenues.