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date: 17 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter charts the historical development of Bible reading and Bible courses in American public schools from the early 1800s to the early 2000s, discussing key events such as nineteenth-century Bible wars, the creation of distinct Bible courses in conjunction with Sunday Schools and Weekday Religious Education, Supreme Court cases like Abington Township School District v. Schempp, and post-Schempp efforts to promote Bible classes. It pays particular attention to the ways Bible reading and Bible courses have often favored some religious perspectives over others and to the efforts of courts, educators, and special interest groups to identify constitutional ways to teach about the Bible. Hitting the legal benchmark of nonsectarianism has proved to be challenging, despite broad support in many quarters for the general project of religious literacy. Putting contemporary practice into historical perspective reveals similarities between ongoing debates about the Bible and public education and past controversies.

Keywords: Abington Township School District v. Schempp, Bible and public education, Bible courses, Bible Literacy Project, Bible reading, National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, teaching about the Bible, Weekday Religious Education

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