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Florida school board agrees to Bible curriculum settlement

FORT MYERS, Fla. (BP)–A Florida school board has voted unanimously to replace its Bible-history curriculum with material suggested by seven parents and others who filed suit against the board in December.
The vote was part of a settlement Feb. 25 of a lawsuit involving the Lee County School Board, based in Fort Myers.
Plaintiffs in Gibson et al. v. The Lee County School Board claimed the original curriculum, from the National Council for Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, was a constitutional violation of the separation of church and state intended to be religious instruction.
The school board approved Old and New Testament elective courses for its high schools last year. Advocates of the Bible-history classes say the Bible is integral to understanding American and European history, culture and literature. They point to statements made by Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr., phrases such as “handwriting on the wall” and “prodigal son,” as well as the significance placed on Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Old Testament classes began in January in seven high schools.
Plans for New Testament classes this spring were halted Jan. 20 when U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich ruled that while the Old Testament curriculum was constitutional, the New Testament curriculum – – containing references to miracles and Jesus’ resurrection — was not.
According to the out-of-court settlement, this semester’s Old Testament classes will be completed using the original curriculum. Videotapes of the classes will be provided to the plaintiffs. However, future Old Testament classes, as well as New Testament classes scheduled to begin in four schools March 31, will use the new curriculum and will be audiotaped.
The settlement includes an agreement for the board’s insurance carrier to pay the plaintiffs’ $95,000 attorney fees.

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  • Kristi Hodge