high school Bible elective

Hey reporters, wanna know what's taught in a public school's Bible class? Ask teachers, students

Hey reporters, wanna know what's taught in a public school's Bible class? Ask teachers, students

I'm always fascinated by news stories about Bible classes in public schools.

I first delved into the subject 20-plus years ago when I wrote a front-page story for The Oklahoman on a debate over elective courses in Bible and religion in the Oklahoma City School District.

In today's post, I want to highlight a Des Moines Register story that goes the extra mile — yes, the reporter actually talked to teachers and students — in reporting on a bill introduced in the Iowa Statehouse.

The Register's lede:

A Statehouse proposal to expand access to Bible literacy classes in Iowa public schools is causing controversy among parents and educators. 
Proponents say classes on the Bible provide important historical or cultural context for students. But opponents say the legislation is a backdoor to teaching Christianity.  
To get more perspective, the Des Moines Register went looking for places where the Bible is already being taught in Iowa classrooms. 
It found a course in one of eastern Iowa's most liberal enclaves: Iowa City. 
Three high schools in Iowa City offer a "Bible as Literature" class.

Now, that opening isn't the most exciting one I've ever read — but it certainly presents the facts in an impartial and straightforward manner.

Keep reading, and the paper offers some nice details from teachers and students about what the class actually encompasses:

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Almost heaven, West Virginia: How to cover dispute over Bible classes in public schools the right way

Almost heaven, West Virginia: How to cover dispute over Bible classes in public schools the right way

Almost heaven, West Virginia ...

I won't say the Washington Post's front-page story today on a lawsuit over a Bible elective in a West Virginia public school district is "almost heaven," but it's pretty good.

Excellent, actually.

Three months ago, I highlighted an Associated Press story on the same federal lawsuit at the heart of the Post's report.

In my earlier post, I said:

I don't have a real problem with The Associated Press' coverage of a religion-related federal lawsuit filed against a West Virginia school district.
I mean, it's a threadbare account — roughly 400 words — but that's typical of AP news these days. At least this one makes an attempt to present both sides.
However, the story does — IMHO — raise more questions than it answers.

After supplying a bit more commentary and explanation, I concluded:

To understand what's really happening in the West Virginia school district — and the constitutionality of it or not — AP or another news organization would need to do much more reporting: Interview students, parents and teachers. Review the curriculum. Talk to church-and-state experts. Study past U.S. Supreme Court decisions on religion in public schools.
Of course, reporting all of the above would require more than 400 words.

Which leads us back to today's Post story, which, by the way, tops 2,000 words.

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AP's one-sided report on teaching Bible in public schools

That’s the distinct tone of an Associated Press story out this week (just three weeks behind Religion News Service) on a new Bible elective approved by an Oklahoma school district. But does this AP story, filled with much weeping and gnashing of teeth, deliver the actual journalistic goods?

Why don’t you help me decide, inquiring-mind GetReligion readers?

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Steve Green’s faith led him to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he’s argued the nation’s new health care law and its requirement that his business provide certain types of birth control to employees violates his religious freedoms.

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Stenography vs. reporting: 'Bias' in the Lone Star State

Just the other night, I was watching an old episode of “The West Wing,” one of my all-time favorite television series.

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