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frequently asked questions

understanding hamilton county's bible history program

Bible History classes in the public schools are an opportunity for students to have a viewpoint neutral, foundational study – at no cost to taxpayers – of one of the cornerstone texts of world history, helping students be culturally literate and better equipped to thrive and contribute to a global world.

  • It is legal to teach the Bible in public schools?
    Yes. In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled:  It certainly may be said that the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities. Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment.

  • Does Bible in the Schools promote any specific religion or denomination?
    Since public school Bible classes first started in 1922, the teaching has remained non-evangelistic and non-denominational. Bible in the Schools does not promote or denigrate any religion.

  • Are taxpayer funds used?
    No. Bible in the Schools is fully supported by private contributions from the community. No taxpayer funds are used.

  • Who employs Bible History teachers? 
    The teachers are employed by the Hamilton County Department of Education.

  • What role does Bible in the Schools have? 
    Since no tax funds are used, Bible in the Schools is the conduit through which the community gave give charitably to support the program. Bible in the Schools reimburses the Hamilton County Department of Education annually for the comprehensive costs of running the county-wide Bible History program. These expenses include the teacher salary, full benefit packages for all teachers, taxes, classroom supplies, texbooks (Bibles), and costs of professional development training several times per year for all Bible History teachers.

  • What qualifications must a teacher have?
(1) 12 credit hours of Bible content from an accredited college/university. Acceptable classes include: Old Testament Survey, Book of James, Major Prophets, Minor Prophets, etc. Classes not accepted: Theology; Biblical Languages; Doctrine, etc.
(2) Either option #1: Bible content hours described above plus Tennessee teacher certification in History/English,
(3) OR option #2: Bible content hours described above plus college degree major of History/English. Candidates with other college degrees may be required to obtain a passing score on History or English Praxis.
(4) Candidates without current Tennessee teacher licensure must also obtain full acceptance into a Tennessee Job-embedded teacher licensure program. Teacher licensure reciprocity is available subject to state policies.
(5) For more information, please contact Dr. Marni Halvorson at: Dr.M.Halvorson@gmail.com.
  • What courses are taught? 
    Five courses are offered: Genesis (6th grade), Exodus (7th grade), The Life of Jesus -- based on the book of Luke (8th grade), Old Testament Survey (9th-12th grade), and New Testament Survey (9th-12th grade).

  • What determines if Bible History is offered in a school? 
    School principals request Bible History electives for their school. Principals inform the Hamilton County Department of Education's central office if they are interested in adding Bible History to their curriculum. The HCDE then consults with Bible in the Schools to inquire if funding is available to cover the comprehensive costs.

  • How are teachers hired? 
    Teachers are selected and hired by the principals of the schools. Prospective teachers may make inquiries at Bible in the Schools and will be provided assistance with determining if their qualifications align with state requirements. Bible in the Schools refers all interested applicant to the Hamilton County Department of Education's administrator who has oversight over the HCDE Bible History Program. 

  • Can other school districts have a Bible History program? 
    Yes. It is legal to teach the Bible from a historical or literature perspective.

  • Is Bible History like Sunday school or other religious education? 
    Bible History courses are typically part of a school's Social Studies curriculum. All courses are for credit and count towards the student's graduation requirements. Because of this accountability, courses are challenging. Projects, papers, and exams are used to measure a student's successful completion. Doctrine and theology issues are not taught.

  • Are students required to take Bible History courses? 
    All courses are electives. Students select Bible History as they would any other elective such as music and art.

  • How do teachers deal with controversial Bible topics? 
    When students ask questions, the teachers encourage them to refer back to the text. The Bible is the only textbook used for these classes.

  • What do students learn by taking Bible History courses? 
    They learn such things as the history and organization of the Bible. They study early Middle Eastern history as detailed in the Old Testament. They examine the life of Jesus and study history as detailed in the New Testament. They gain knowledge of what the Bible says about the nature of God and the nature of man.