FFRF looks to end 75 years of bible study in Mercer County, West Virginia public schools.
Bible study classes being held at Mercer County Schools may soon be a thing of the past. West Virginia’s Mercy County School District schools indoctrinate children in Bible study from the first grade. About 16 elementary schools, three middle schools, and one intermediate school hold such religious classes every week. The duration is 30 minutes for elementary students 45 minutes for middle school students. The population of Mercer County is approximately 63,000.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is a primary plaintiff in the case against bible classes. The legal complaint mounted by the FFRF lists a number of examples of this proselytizing curriculum. Creationism is blatantly promoted in lesson two. It says both dinosaurs and humans co-existed at one point in history. The astounding facts are made more marketable by asking the students to imagine children and dinosaurs playing together. Lesson six asks students to follow the Ten Commandments.

Bible study, not surprisingly, has a large number of supporters. They say the weekly class is simply an elective not intended to promote any kind of religious belief. The aim is to explore the literature and also history of the Bible. Many parents believe Bible study teaches respect, character, and the importance of always telling the truth.

The other primary plaintiffs are Jane Doe, an FFRF member, and an atheist. She is joined by Jamie Doe, her child. Jane contends Jamie could face “an untenable choice” in 2018. The child must decide whether he will participate in the Bible study or opt out. The latter may result in ostracism of the child from his peers. Mercer County Schools and Mercer County Board of Education along with Superintendent Deborah S. Akers are the defendants.

The Bible study class in Mercer County schools is not new. It has been going on for 75 years. A few citizens of the county have provided the necessary funding from 1939 to 1985. They designed, staffed, and also administered the classes. In 1985, after receiving a lot of flak from parents of a few students, the Bible instruction was taken over by Mercer County Schools. The new administration claimed it followed all the nine guidelines as received from the Attorney General's office.

The curriculum bears a resemblance to the instruction of sectarian Sunday schools. The aim of such studies is to imbibe students with a positive attitude when it comes to Biblical literature. Children are also taught the importance of the Ten Commandments and harmonize four gospel accounts that describe Jesus' last days.

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