I’m one of those folks who thinks that courses in comparative religion, or about the bible as literature, can be a valuable thing. Unfortunately, they just don’t work in the real world. There’s really only two ways to teach such a course. You either teach that the Bible is absolutely true (in which case you violate the first amendment’s establishment clause) or you teach about the Bible as you would any other book, by examining the historical context, the archaeological evidence concerning the events discussed, the accuracy of its descriptions, and so forth (and there you run into objections from the more fundamentalist-minded).
Today we have two competing curricula for Bible course electives in public schools, the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools and the Bible Literacy Project. The former is essentially designed to teach kids that the Bible is the true and accurate word of God and it is almost certainly unconstitutional to teach it in public schools (this has not yet been tested in court, but will be soon); the latter is designed to be a more scholarly and objective examination of the Bible and is running into the sorts of objections I mentioned above.
D. James Kennedy, a televangelist and purveyor of lies (and those two things are not coincidental), is predictably objecting to the Bible Literacy Project because it doesn’t sufficently endorse the truth of the Bible as God’s word:
Dr. D. James Kennedy, senior minister of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, sits on the advisory board of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, a group that supports use of the Bible itself as a text in public school Bible classes. Kennedy explains why he does not endorse the BLP text.
“It is relativistic. It’s the typical liberal approach to the Bible,” says the Florida pastor. “When I was in a half-liberal seminary, it’s a kind of thing that they pushed all the time, the purpose of which is to undermine the students’ confidence and faith in the teachings of the Bible and in the Word of God.”
And this is why, ultimately, Bible course won’t work. To be sufficently objective to withstand judicial scrutiny, they have to critically analyze the claims of the Bible at least to some degree and that angers the more theologically conservative. That’s why, despite the fact that I think it can be a really useful course when taught right, such courses are probably best avoided.