JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri House lawmakers passed legislation on Monday, March 25 that would allow, if approved by the Missouri Senate, public schools in Missouri to offer elective social studies classes on the Bible. House Bill 267, sponsored by District 160 Rep. Ben Baker (R-Neosho), was sent to the Senate after clearing the house on March 25.
Some critics of the bill questioned the need for it, saying public K-12 schools can already teach about the Bible and other religious texts.
But Rep. Baker says current law has sometimes been interpreted to mean full courses on the Bible are not permitted. Baker says his bill is aimed at clarifying that those classes are allowed in Missouri.
According to Rep. Baker, current law allows all books of religious nature to be used as "part of an elective course." Some have interpreted that to mean that the Bible or any other religious book can be used as a reference, but not as a full elective. If approved, this will clarify that school districts have the “choice” to offer the class and student have the “choice” to take the class, and if they pass, they will receive credit towards graduation.
“Just to clarify, the intention of my bill is not to teach religious classes or worship practices,” Rep. Baker said. “It is to teach the Bible as literature and the history of its influence on the United States of America.” According to Guinness World Records, the Bible is the best-selling book of all time, with more than 5 billion copies sold and distributed, as of 2018.
“Some ask if this could open the opportunity for other 'religious' books and philosophy to be considered,” Pastor Nick Stutesman said. Stutesman is the Co-founder of the K-12 Lake Christian Academy in Sunrise Beach, Mo. “But, if we truly evaluate the curriculum and instruction that is currently taking place in our districts, you’ll find many of those ideologies are already being presented, except for Christianity.” If the bill is passed, each school district would be in complete control of the curriculum and would choose the teachers.
“In the scope of all the other states that currently allow Biblical literacy classes, there are very few instances of people teaching it incorrectly,” Rep. Baker said. “There are several excellent curricula available to school districts and some of them at no cost. These curricula are designed specifically to teach the Bible as literature. One of those is currently available in 47 states.”
The Republican-led House voted 95-52 to pass the HB 267, which was co-sponsored by 20 Republicans and one Democrat. Local District 58 Representative David Wood (R-Versailles), District 123 Representative Suzie Pollock (R-Lebanon) and District 124 Representative Rocky Miller (R-Lake Ozark) all voted yes to approve HB 267.
“I am excited to be able to offer our children the opportunity, if they so choose, to study the most important book in the history of the world, and a book that has had major impact upon the founding and culture of our nation,” Rep. Baker concluded.