Alabama Legislature Tries to Cross Church-State Divide, Yet Again

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Proposed Bill Would Give Public School Credit for Studying Creationism

A bill introduced in the Alabama Legislature, House Bill 133, proposes allowing churches to teach a creationism class away from public school campuses for school credit — if parents and school boards give permission and churches are willing to transport students, teach the class and cover students’ expenses.

Rep. Blaine Galliher, R-Rainbow City, introduced the bill, apparently at the behest of Joseph Kennedy, a former teacher who got fired in 1980 for reading the Bible and teaching creationism at Spring Garden Elementary School when parents of the public school sixth-grade students objected and he refused to stop. A member of Southside Baptist Church near Gadsden, Kennedy told the Birmingham News he and his supporters have formed a board of directors for the Institute for Biblical Studies, which would offer a creationism class if a released-time class law were passed.

The bill is scheduled to be debated Feb. 28 in the House Education Policy Committee.

“It looks like it’s a very viable way to offer some elective courses for kids that have many opportunities for electives,” Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, R-Indian Springs, said. She chairs the committee. “To me, this would be a real good one, to be able to study religion.”

But former Samford University professor Thomas Berg, now constitutional law professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, said even giving elective credit could be considered too much involvement by the school.


“Anyone challenging it in court will argue the motivation for it was religious,” he said, “A court is probably going to look at that suspiciously. There is a certain suspicion in the courts of Alabama legislators trying to promote religion.”

© 2012, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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