CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The state Senate passed and sent to Gov. Jim Justice a bill clarifying that county school boards may offer elective courses on the Bible.
“I’ll bet you a Holy Rosary that this is going to be declared unconstitutional,” said Senator Mike Woelfel, D-Cabell, moments before he reluctantly voted for it.
Senator Patricia Rucker, R-Jefferson, defended the bill in a floor debate with Woelfel.
“Does it (the bill) have any provision for any other sacred texts to be studied except the Christian Bible?” Woelfel asked Rucker. “No, it does not,” Rucker responded. “It says Hebrew Scriptures, Old Testament or New Testament.”
But Rucker added that counties may, if they choose, still have courses on comparative religions. “This (bill) doesn’t exclude or prohibit that. This just gives guidelines for if you want to have a course on the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament or the New Testament.”
The vote came one day after the Senate rejected 15-19 an amendment by Senator Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier, to include other sacred texts. “The point is to be broad and inclusive and not name specific texts,” said Baldwin, who is a pastor.
The bill clarifies that public schools may offer students in grade nine or above an elective, Bible-based social studies course.
The House of Delegates also heavily debated whether the bill should include other religious traditions before passing it.