Teaching Social Studies

Analysis & Commentary | Resources & Teaching Materials | Media Coverage


The Texas State Legislature authorized (H.B. NO. 1287) Texas public high schools to offer either an elective English course on the Bible as literature or an elective social studies course on the "influence" of the Bible "on law, history, government, literature, art, music, customs, morals, values, and culture." The state has not allocated any funds nor created or endorsed any curriculum materials.

This page exists to help community members, school administrators, public school teachers, and home schooling parents who are considering, designing, or teaching a course on Bible literacy by compiling publicly available resources and teaching materials, analysis and commentary, and local and national media references.

Such compilation by reference or hyperlink does not imply curricular endorsement by the Center for History Teaching & Learning, the History Department, or the University of Texas at El Paso.


Analysis & Commentary

Legal Considerations

The Bible & Public Schools: A First Amendment Guide (Bible Literacy Project and the First Amendment Center, 1999).

Bible Electives in Public Schools: A Guide (Society for Biblical Literature, 2008).

Bible in School, Teaching About Religion , and Cases & Resources (First Amendment Center)

The Bible and Public Schools: Resources for Understanding the Issues (Southern Methodist University).

Freedom of Religion and the Establishment Clause (National Paralegal College, 2003-2010)


Scholarly Studies

Mark A. Chancey, Reading, Writing & Religion II: Texas Public School Bible Courses in 2011-12 (Texas Freedom Network, 2013).

Mark A. Chancey, "Bible Courses in Public Schools: SBL's Response to a Growing Trend," Society for Biblical Literature Forum , n.p. [cited April 2007].

Mark A. Chancey, Reading, Writing and Religion: Teaching the Bible in Texas Public Schools (Texas Freedom Network, 2006).

Bible Literacy Report II: What University Professors Say Incoming Students Need to Know (Bible Literacy Project, 2006).

Bible Literacy Report: What Do American Teens Need to Know and What Do They Know? (Bible Literacy Project, 2005).


Groups Involved in Advocacy Work in Texas

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) - a national organization that, according to its website, "works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States." The ACLU participated in the Odessa lawsuit described below.
Bible Literacy Project, Inc. (BLP) - a Front Royal, VA-based non-partisan, non-profit endeavor created, according to its website, "to encourage and facilitate the academic study of the Bible in public schools."
National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBCPS) - a Greensboro, NC-based non-profit group organized, according to its website, "to bring a state certified Bible course (elective) into the public high schools nationwide."
Society for Biblical Literature (SBL) - the oldest and largest international scholarly membership organization in the field of biblical studies that exists, according to its website, to "Foster Biblical Scholarship." The society is open to the public and has been a constituent society of the American Council of Learned Societies since 1929.
Texas Free Market Foundation - a Plano-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that, according to its website, works "to protect freedoms and strengthen families throughout Texas by impacting our legislature, media, grassroots, and courts with the truth." The foundation emphasizes "Judeo-Christian values," "First Amendment freedoms, less government, and solid family values" and serves as the statewide public policy council associated with Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family.
Texas Freedom Network (TFN) - an Austin-based 501(c)(4) tax-exempt, non-profit corporation that, according to its website, "advances a mainstream agenda of religious freedom and individual liberties to counter the religious right." Membership is open to the public though contributions are not tax deductible.


Resources & Teaching Materials

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Emerging analysis points toward a legal and practical preference for "textbooks" and publicly reviewed "pedagogical materials" over "commentaries," "websites," and "private publications." Decisions to adopt a single Bible version or translation to the exclusion of others have also proven problematic in the public school context.


The Bible

Summary of Modern Bible Versions and Translations (Society for Biblical Literature)

Codex Sinaiticus (4th Century)



Currently, only two textbooks attempt to present Bible literacy in a legally acceptable manner, though reviewers (and in some instances lawsuits) are vigilantly testing them. The earliest editions of both volumes were criticized and both have been revised and reissued after public reviews. Because of the polemical competition between them, neither volume publishes information about the number of editions or nature of revisions.

Cullen Schippe and Chuck Stetson, eds. The Bible and Its Influence. New York and Front Royal, VA: Bible Literacy Project, 2006.
The Bible in History and Literature (National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, n.d.)



Pedagogical Books

Stephen Prothero, Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know--And Doesn't (Harper Collins, 2007)
Mark Roncace and Patrick Gray, eds. Teaching the Bible: Practical Strategies for Classroom Instruction (Society for Biblical Literature, 2005) [Google Books]
Mark Roncace and Patrick Gray, eds. Teaching the Bible through Popular Culture and the Arts (Society for Biblical Literature, 2007) [Google Books]


Additional Resources

A vast and ever-growing body of scholarly, devotional, and public literature addresses the issues of religion, the Bible, Bible literacy, and the public schools. Though not always permissible in Texas classrooms, such resources are nevertheless helpful. Selected aggregations are presented here.

The Bible in Public Schools (Society for Biblical Literature)

Religion in the Schools (American Academy of Religion)

The Internet Guide to Religion (Wabash Center)

Research Tools (Society for Biblical Literature)

Bible Commentaries tend not to hold up under judicial scrutiny as curriculum materials, but they are a source of choice for many Bible readers: Society for Biblical Literature | Amazon | Google


Teacher Training

Texas Teacher Training Workshops, conducted by the Bible Literacy Project (textbook publisher), various cities, July-August 2010

Teaching the Bible in Texas Public Schools, Department of Religious Studies, UT Austin, August 4-7, 2009 - Announcement | Report


Courses at UTEP

Old Testament History and Culture

  • Ancient Mediterranean Culture (Humanities)
  • Pyramids and Prophets (History 3339)

New Testament History and Culture

  • Life and Teachings of Jesus (RS 3350)
  • The Roman Empire (History 333)

Influence of the Bible

  • History of Religion in the West (History 3359)
  • The Age of Reformation (History 3365)
  • Literature of the Bible (English 3325)
  • Medieval Philosophy (Philosophy 3315)
  • Hispanic Religious Expressions (RS 3350)
  • Introduction to Religious Studies (RS 3101)
  • Major World Religions (RS 3310)
  • Philosophy of Religion (Philosophy 3322)

UTEP offers an undergraduate minor in Religious Studies. See the current class schedule for course offerings.


Media Coverage

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Implementation in Texas

"Texas Leads Nation in Public School Bible Literacy Courses," Bible Literacy Project, September 28, 2009.

Jessica Meyers, "State Tells Schools to Teach Bible Literacy but Not How," Dallas Morning News, September 6, 2009.

Kate Alexander, "New Bible Requirement hits Texas Schools this Fall" Austin American-Statesman, August 8, 2009.

Terrence Stutz, "Bible Study Class Optional for Texas Schools, Attorney General Says," Dallas Morning News, August 29, 2008.

David Waters, "Bible Classes in Texas Public Schools," Washington Post, July 25, 2008.

"Texas OKs Standards for Elective Bible Classes," Associated Press, July 18, 2008.

Gary Scharrer, "Senate OKs Bill for School Bible Classes," Houston Chronicle, May 24, 2007.


A Recent Bible Course (and Lawsuit) in Odessa, TX

Mark A. Chancey‌, "The Bible, the First Amendment, and the Public Schools in Odessa, Texas," Religion and American Culture 19, no. 2 (Summer 2009): 169–205.

Charles C. Haynes, "Bible Showdown in Odessa Could have Texas-Sized Impact," First Amendment Center.org, May 27, 2007.

"Bible Class Sparks Suit in Odessa," Associated Press, May 16, 2007.

"ACLU Successfully Helps Parents Challenge Bible Classes in Texas Public Schools," American Civil Liberties Union, May 16, 2007.

Barbara Novovitch, "Texas District Adopts Disputed Text on Bible Study," New York Times, December 22, 2005.

Ralph Blumental and Barbara Novovitch, "Bible Course Becomes a Test for Public Schools in Texas," New York Times, August 1, 2005.

Eva Parks, "Texas Public School Bringing Bible to Classroom," NBC News, April 27, 2005.


Bible Literacy

Christopher Gunter, "The Bible Belongs in Schools," Education Week 29, no. 15 (December 11, 2009).

William R. Mattox Jr., "Teach the Bible? Of Course," USA Today, August 17, 2009.

Mark A. Chancey, "The Bible and Public Education: Recent Developments," The Bible and Interpretation, April 2009.

David Van Biema, "The Case for Teaching The Bible," Time Magazine, March 22, 2007.



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In Texas

>> The Legislation (House Bill 1287)

>> State Standards (§74.36)

>> FAQs (Texas Education Agency, October 2008)


In Other States

Legislation Passed

Legislation Proposed

  • Indiana
  • Missouri
  • New Mexico
  • Oklahoma

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