I have noted before that while Bible classes taught from an academic perspective have been ruled constitutional, I still think they are very bad ideas. Including the Bible as it applies in literature and history classes is appropriate, though it should be proportional to its importance to the field, and should be taught in a way that is neutral.
While problems may arise in such classes about the way in the which the Bible is taught, there is at least a good basis for setting the boundaries–the standards of the field in question.
Chris Heard at Higgaion tells of a community college teacher who has been fired because his teaching of Genesis 1-11 offended some of his students. You see, he taught what would be regarded as the academic mainstream view of these passages, and thus didn’t take them as narrative history, which his students would have preferred. Now this was in a western civilization course.
Imagine what would happen if the course was a High School Bible course, and someone taught critical views of these passages? That is what many, many academically trained teachers would do, and it would certainly be a violation of church and state separation to have teachers required to teach a particular sectarian view of the passages. Remember that it is not even the majority Christian view that these passages should be read as narrative history. (No, I will not be impressed by arguments that involve saying that Catholics aren’t Christians, and thus don’t count for the “majority.”) Such a class taught to high school students would result in an uproar in the Christian community. At the same time, they will try, as they have through the truly National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools.
The best way to teach young people the Bible is for the individual churches to provide their own instruction. I would suggest that instruction be broad and include an overview of how other people understand the texts. The young people can be introduced to more academic views in civilization and literature classes.
If the Bible is to be taught in public schools, the approach must be academic and critical, and must include all those views to the left of fundamentalism. Most of the parents aren’t even aware of such views, and will be shocked at what happens in those classes. Their hope is to get NCBCPS curriculum accepted and put it in the hands of underqualified teachers who will accept it as it is.