Region 8 residents split on Arkansas Bible bill

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A bill requiring the Arkansas Board of Education to sign off on classes involving the academic study of the Bible has passed in the House. Legislators nearly unanimously passed the bill with a 79-3 vote in favor of the bill.

The class would be offered as a history or social studies elective course that would "have to meet an appropriate level of academic rigor."

Region 8 resident, Richard Holland has two children in school and supports the bill.

"I think it [Bible study] is important, not only in the school but in the church as well," Holland told Region 8 News. "The parents, it's their responsibility to get their kids in church, and if the school wants to broaden that teaching, I believe that'd be okay."

Others aren't so on board.

"Religion studies belong at home, or in church...not in schools," James Chandler told Region 8 News.

Chandler said though the class would be offered as a history or social studies elective, the teachings could easily cross a line.

"It'd have to be one of those things that would be closely monitored because there is a great precedent between the separation of church and state, one I firmly believe in," Chandler said.

Not everyone in the legislature is on board either.

The Department of Education Chief of Staff Phyllis Stewart told legislators that this bill is unnecessary, as school districts are already allowed to offer an academic study of the Bible.

The sponsor of the bill, Republican Representative Denny Altes acknowledged it does "almost nothing," but distinguish the law.

According to the DOE, at least four schools in Arkansas already offer academic Bible courses.

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