Iowa House panel approves bill allowing high school Bible course

A legislative panel in Iowa recently approved a bill which could allow the state Department of Education to include elective Bible or Hebrew Scripture courses in the high school curriculum.

(REUTERS / Mike Segar)A pocket Bible, June 29, 2008.

House File 20131 lets high schools in Iowa provide social elective courses on biblical content to its students to enable them to understand "contemporary society and culture." The bill was approved on Tuesday, Jan. 30, even though more than 100 school districts in the state already offered courses related to religion, The Gazette detailed.

Subcommittee Chairman Skyler Wheeler (R-Orange City) explained that the religious classes were important because it gave students knowledge of the effect of the Bible in the present culture. Chuck Hurley of the Family Leader also said not having access to that knowledge was "inappropriate."

However, lnterfaith Alliance of Iowa Action Fund lobbyist Connie Ryan pointed out that they would have a dilemma giving preference to one religion or book over another. Groups advocating for LGBT and civil rights also opposed the bill, but conservative groups rallied behind it.

Meanwhile, Rep. Mary Mascher (D-Iowa City) said she will be seeking classes based on other religious books if Iowa ends up implementing the bill. However, she clarified that she was not opposed to teaching biblical content, the Des Moines Register reported.

"I'll have one for the Quran and I'll have one for the Talmud. I'll have one for all those major religions," said Rep. Mascher. "Because if we're going to do it for the Bible, we should do it for every religion so everybody has that option and choice."

Rep. Wheeler, on the other hand, disagreed with the idea of offering similar courses based on the Quran, saying the latter was different from the Bible. He said the Islamic text had not had a similar impact that the Bible had on their history and culture.