A West Virginia bill that allows elective Bible study courses in public schools passed through the Senate on Thursday.
Since the state House of Delegates already passed it, the bill has been sent to the desk of Gov. Jim Justice.
“As a religious person, on one hand I would want a public space to be equal for all,” said Rabbi Zalman Gurevitz of the WVU Rohr Chabad Jewish Center. “I can’t speak for other religions, but I think this law is a back around way of bringing Christian worship into school.”
According to House Bill 4780, under the bill county boards of education can offer three different courses to grades nine or above. These include an elective social studies course on the Hebrew Scriptures and the Old Testament of the Bible, an elective social studies course on the New Testament of the Bible or an elective social studies course on the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament of the Bible. The bill does not require counties to offer such classes.
According to the bill, an intended purpose of the bill is to “teach students knowledge of biblical content, characters, poetry and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding the development of American society and culture, including literature, art, music, mores, oratory and public policy.”
The bill also states that “a course under this section may not endorse, favor, promote, disfavor, or show hostility toward, any particular religion or nonreligious faith or religious perspective.”
Sen. Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, voted for the bill, but said it was unconstitutional.
“I’m going to vote for this bill. I certainly think our students could benefit from this, but you got a bill here that’s going to be declared unconstitutional,” Woelfel said, according to The Register-Herald. “By making it restrictive and denying the amendment, [to include any sacred text or comparative religion], I bet you a holy rosary this will be declared unconstitutional.”