Lawmakers advance bill for Bible classes in public schools

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JEFFERSON CITY - A freshman representative is hoping to add a new elective for Missouri public schools: Bible classes. 

Rep. Ben Baker, R-Neosho, said the class would not teach religion, but teach the Bible from a historical and literary perspective. 

"It's not teaching worship practices, it's not proselytizing or any of those things," he said. 

Baker also said having an understanding of the Bible will help broaden their education to understand cultural and political references.

"If they don't have a least a rudimentary understanding of the Bible, they're gonna miss those references," he said. "So even understanding the culture that we live in the United States of America, I think our students need that." 

Brian Kaylor, a writer for a Baptist magazine, was one of the nine people who testified at the bill's hearing, but the only person who was opposed.

"One of my problems with it is by singling out this text and saying this is the only religious text worthy of its own entire class, is itself the state starting to play favoritism over one religion or the other," he said. 

Lashunda Glasgow, a mother and daycare owner, agrees that it could make students of other faiths feel excluded, but thinks they can all benefit somehow. 

"I think that the Bible teaches you morals and values," she said.

Glasgow also said that the class could provide the opportunity for students to explore Christianity. 

"Sometimes religion is forced upon you because of beliefs but if you take the time and you learn then you can decide which religion you want to be." 

Baker however said he wants to emphasize the class would solely be taught in the context of history.

"It's not teaching worship practices, it's not proselytizing or any of those things," he said. 

However, Baker said he has bipartisan support on the bill, but said he understands how some find it controversial.

The committee voted 8-2 to advance the bill to the full Missouri House for debate.