frequently asked questions
understanding the hamilton county schools' bible elective course program
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THE BIBLE CURRICULUM TAUGHT IN HAMILTON COUNTY SCHOOLS BELONGS TO THE HAMILTON COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND ALIGNS WITH THE TENNESSEE STATE STANDARDS.
Bible elective courses in Hamilton County public schools are an opportunity for students to academically study the Bible from a non-sectarian, neutral perspective, at no cost to taxpayers. The Bible is one of the cornerstone texts of world history and remains the world's best selling piece of literature. This curriculum helps students become culturally literate and helps them make connections across literature, history, humanities, and the arts. Through broadening their education, students become better equipped to thrive and contribute in a global and world.
- The Bible curriculum is owned and approved by the Hamilton County Board of Education.
- It is legal to academically 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?
No. Bible courses are robust and academically challenging. Since public school Bible elective classes first started in 1922, the teaching focuses on literary and historical components, and is non-sectarian and presented without bias. Bible courses do not include lessons related to doctrine, nor do they promote or denigrate any religion. The Bible education program seeks equal access for all students, from all walks of life.
- Are taxpayer funds used?
No. Bible elective courses are 100% gifted to public schools by private charitable contributions from the community. No taxpayer dollars are used.
- Who employs Bible teachers?
The teachers are selected and hired by school principals and are employees of the school system. Bible in the Schools does not hire teachers and directs all interested teacher applicants to Hamilton County Schools.
- What role does Bible in the Schools have?
Bible in the Schools raises the funds that are then reimbursed to Hamilton County Schools annually for the specific use of the countywide Bible program. Since no tax funds are used, Bible in the Schools is the conduit through which the community gives charitably to provide Bible electives to local public schools. Included in reimbursement costs are: teacher salaries, benefits, taxes, teacher professional development and compliance training, classroom materials, and the textbooks (the Bible) for over 5,000 students in all participating schools.
- What qualifications are required to teach Bible?
All applicants are required to have:
12 credit hours of Bible content from an accredited college or university. Acceptable classes include: Old Testament Survey, Book of James, Major Prophets, Minor Prophets, etc. Classes not accepted: Theology; Biblical Languages; Doctrine, etc.
Applicants are required to have either:
(1) Bible content hours as described above, plus Tennessee teacher certification in History or English; OR,
(2) Bible content hours described above, plus college degree major of History/English.
It should be noted that candidates with other college degrees may be required to obtain a passing score on a History or English Praxis exam.
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.
- What are the course offerings?
Five courses are offered by Hamilton County Schools to students in the middle and high school grades: 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).
- OLD TESTAMENT BIBLE IS NOW OPTIONALLY AVAILABLE FOR DUAL COLLEGE CREDIT THROUGH CHATTANOOGA STATE COMMUNITY COLLEGE.
- GENESIS: 6th Grade - In this class, students will study the narratives of the creation, the flood, and the Patriarchs, through the line of Jacob.
- EXODUS: 7th Grade - In this class, students will study the Ten Plagues, the liberation of the people from Egypt, the wanderings in the wilderness, the giving of the Ten Commandments, and ending with the death of Moses.
- LIFE OF JESUS: 8th Grade - This course is designed around the book of Luke to give an academic overview of the life of Jesus, including his early life and ministry, through the Ascension.
- OLD TESTAMENT BIBLE: 9th-12th Grade - This course provides an academic overview of the entire Old Testament studying the three parts of the biblical canon: (1) the historical narratives; (2) the books of Wisdom; and, (3) the Prophets.
- NEW TESTAMENT BIBLE: 9th-12th Grade - This course provides an academic overview of the entire New Testament. Students engage in a comparative study of the four Gospels and trace the development of the early Christian church and Paul’s Epistles.
- Who determines if Bible education is offered in a public school?
School principals request Bible electives for their school. The school system then consults with Bible in the Schools to inquire if funding is available to cover the comprehensive costs. As funding becomes available through community/donor charitable gifts, a Bible program is then implemented at a new school.
- How are teachers hired?
Interested candidates should send their email and unofficial transcripts to Hamilton County Schools District Bible Content Lead, Ms. Patricia Cone at: Cone_Patricia@hcde.org. Candidates with eligible qualifications will be referred to the Human Resource Office at Hamilton County Schools. Principals hire the teachers.
- Can other public school districts have a Bible program?
Yes. It is constitutionally permissible to teach Bible from a historical or literature perspective. For more information, contact: email@example.com.
- Is Bible taught like Sunday school or other religious education?
No. Bible education courses are non-sectarian, academically rigorous academic elective courses. Bible courses at the high school level are for-credit courses that count toward a student's graduation requirements. Doctrine is not taught, and students optionally select this subject. Bible elective classes are an opportunity for students to have a viewpoint neutral, foundational study of one of the cornerstone texts of world history, which helps students become culturally literate and better equipped to thrive and contribute to a global world.
- Are students required to take Bible courses?
No students are forced to take Bible courses. Students may electively study the Bible. Students select Bible as they would any other voluntary elective such as music, band, or art, etc. Should a student request to be removed from a Bible class, parents/guardians should follow the schools' desired protocol for requesting a course change.
- How do teachers approach controversial Bible topics? Bible courses focus on the historical and literary aspects of the Bible. Students may be directed to what the textbook (the Bible) teaches regarding various topics.
- What do students learn by taking Bible courses? (See course offerings above.)
Students learn the history, literature, 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 and literature as detailed in the New Testament. Students learn what the Bible says about the nature of God and the nature of man and the narrative of the Bible's account of creation, fall, and redemption.