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Florida Schools Can Teach Bible Course, Judge Rules

From Religion News Service

A controversial Bible history class based on the Old Testament has been introduced in Lee County, Fla., public high schools after a ruling by a federal judge that the course could begin.

The course was a target of a suit by church-state separationists.

Wayne Perry, public information officer for the school district, said 153 students are enrolled in the classes.

The classes began after U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich decided Jan. 20 to allow the first of two courses, which covers the Old Testament, to be taught.

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But the judge questioned whether the second course, which includes the New Testament teachings on miracles and the Resurrection, can be taught as secular history. She continued an injunction blocking the course.

Perry said the first course was created by a committee of district curriculum staff and community members and the second course was developed by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, a private group based in North Carolina.

The school board, which is based in Fort Myers, is scheduled to meet with lawyers Feb. 4 to discuss its options concerning the injunction. They include appealing the decision, canceling the second course, reworking the course or having the district create its own version of a New Testament course.

Meanwhile, the Old Testament classes, which began Jan. 22, are being videotaped to allow plaintiffs in an ongoing lawsuit to see how the instruction is handled.

In December, People for the American Way, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and the Florida law firm of Steel Hector & Davis sued the school on behalf of parents and other county residents. The American Center for Law and Justice, an organization founded by religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, is representing the school board.


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