School Board president says Bible curriculum rejection not up for debate
By Paul McManis
Commoner Journal staff writer
McARTHUR — Committee members advocating the addition of an elective Bible course to the Vinton County High School curriculum were told by school board officials Thursday there would be no debate on the issue.
In February, Bible committee members introduced the Bible History and Literature course at a school board meeting and were given immediate rebuke by board member Clint Walker, who said he would “fight tenaciously” to see that the course is not added to the curriculum.
In April, after months of consideration, the school board announced it would not approve the course.
Thursday, group leader Bob Barber questioned that decision. He said his group was disappointed to see no public record for the committee that was supposed to have been set up to review the course material. Further, he said none of the schools that have implemented the material were contacted by the district to discuss their successes or failures.
School Board President Jeff Thacker said a decision has already been made by the board and that the board will look at material provided from the group, but it will not necessarily change that decision.
“The board has made a decision that is not for debate,” Thacker said.
Barber then read from a letter provided by the Bible committee. In the letter, the group stated that it was responding to the board’s concerns to “avoid any misinformation.”
In the letter, the group said that despite the board’s mention of possibly losing funds, according to the group’s attorney, no school has ever lost funding because of the course.
“We are disappointed that the Vinton County School Board would use this scare tactic to make the community believe that this curriculum would cost our children valuable funding,” Barber read from the letter.
In the letter, the group also reiterated the constitutional legality of the course, stated that the district currently employs 11 qualified teachers, assured that the course will be paid for and will require no funding obligations from the district and stated that the course has never been struck down in court.
As far as concerns of legal struggles, Barber said one of the group’s attorneys, Richard Mast extended an offer for Liberty Council to defend the district at no charge should anyone raise a legal challenge against Vinton County Local School District.
Board Member Jason Radabaugh told the group it was a touchy subject because there are many churches in the county, but not all of them believe the same way or interpret their reading of the Bible similarly. He said that even though the course is not intended to teach devotional-style lessons, he believes it will happen.
“If you put the gas can a little too close to the fire, it’s going to blow up sooner or later,” Radabaugh said. “I don’t know how anyone can speak on the Bible and not feel spiritual about it.”
Barber said Radabaugh’s theory does not work, as the course has not been struck down in court for such purposes at any point. He questioned whether the material provided had even been looked over by the board, saying that if the material had been reviewed, board members would better understand what the course includes.
Thacker said the board would again respond to the group at a later time.
Click for the full text of the committee’s response to the school board decision.