PHOENIX (CN) – The Arizona House on Tuesday approved a bill that would allow public high schools to teach an elective class on “The Bible and Its Influence on Western Culture.”
House Bill 2563, by Tucson Republican Terri Proud, passed by a 42-15 vote, and now goes to the state Senate.
The course will teach the history and literature of the Old and New Testaments, and the influence of the Bible on “laws, history, government, literature, art, music, customs, morals, values and culture,” according to the bill.
The class will be designed to “familiarize pupils with the contents, characters, poetry and narratives that are prerequisites to understanding society and culture, including literature, art, music, mores, oratory and public policy.”
The bill calls for the course to “follow applicable law and all federal and state guidelines in maintaining religious neutrality and accommodating the diverse religious views, traditions and perspectives of pupils.”
The bill requires that teachers selected to teach the class must “successfully complete staff development training as specified by the State Board of Education,” and will not be assigned to the class based on “a religious test; a profession of faith or lack of faith; prior or current religious affiliation or a lack of religious affiliation.”
Proud allowed a change to the bill before the vote, accommodating students with diverse and non-religious backgrounds. A last-minute proposal by Ed Ableser, a Tempe Democrat, to add the Book of Mormon and two other Mormon texts to the course was denied.
The Tucson Unified School District suspended its Mexican-American studies program in January after a widely publicized campaign, led by Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, formerly the Superintendent of Public Instruction, who claimed that such a course was tantamount to teaching ethnic hatred.