By CAROLINE CUMMINGS, CBS2/FOX28
DES MOINES, Iowa (KGAN) - A bill proposed at the Statehouse would direct the Iowa Department of Education to create a curriculum for classes on the Bible.
HF 2031 says these types of courses would be "elective social studies courses emphasizing religious scripture that school districts may offer and teach."
“I really believe in order to properly understand American history and culture, you really need to have some understanding of the Bible as well," said Rep. Dean Fischer, R-Montour, who introduced the bill along with 11 other Republicans.
He says the course won’t be mandated in Iowa public high schools. School boards would have the option to adopt it and students would, like any other elective, have the choice to take the class.
“The only requirement in the bill is that the Department of Education prepare the course materials, curriculum," Fisher said.
But Connie Ryan, who is the executive director of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, has concerns about the bill as it is written now, calling it "inappropriate and extreme."
“The government should never be about promoting one particular religion over the other," she said.
She also emphasized that it's unnecessary since local school boards can choose to have religious-based education courses in the curriculums already. Most of those are comparative religion courses, which examine the five major religions, according to the Iowa Department of Education. Sixty-eight school districts already offer these types of courses, the department said.
“Those courses are teaching about religions. It’s not indoctrination. It’s not proselytizing," Ryan said.
Fisher says the class would look at the Bible as a piece of literature with cultural impacts.
“It would simply go through the Bible like you would go through any other book you were studying as literature and learn the stories and the major themes of the Bible and also study how those stories and themes have impacted our history and culture," Fisher said.
If the bill passes both chambers, Iowa would join a small number of states with laws on similar courses.