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Constitutional FAQ Answer #42

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Q42. "I have to give a persuasive speech on how I think a Bible class should be offered, as an elective at public schools (or at least for them to be possible to allow). I am going to give examples of how the Constitution changes through interpretation, but I would like to know what were the most recent amendments added on and how they effected the old ways. I'm trying to convince that it's possible for the Constitution to alter in order to allow a Bible class to be offered, giving the Bible is a historic document and that it is based on facts."

A. I think that any school would be (and should be) allowed to teach about the Bible as an historical and literary book. I don't think that it should be taught as a religious book, per se, unless it were a course on religious texts in general, part of a series of texts which might include Confucianism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam. When I went to high school we had a class called "The Bible as Literature." In that context, the Bible is not promoted as a part of any religion. It is being examined as any book would be, but because of its historical nature, its many versions, and its length, you can have a full semester class devoted to it.

If you are trying to argue that a class that celebrates the Bible as a Christian Holy Book, which may include praying and sermonizing, then you have a hard row to hoe. I don't see as likely any such class being taught in a public school, short of an amendment to the Constitution.

To answer your questions specifically, to see what the most recent amendments are you simply need to look at the document itself. The last concerned congressional pay. The next concerns voting age. Before that, clarification of the line of succession to the presidency. Before that, a bar to poll taxes. And the last since 1960, Washington D.C. residents were granted suffrage. There is nothing new in the Constitution concerning religion in the past 200 years. You can look to the decisions of the Supreme Court to see how they have applied the so-called separation of church and state. Could the Constitution be changed the allow more religion in the schools? It could, but I don't think it ever will.

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