Berman: "No Such Thing As Separation Of Church & State"

The bill would require public high schools to offer an elective course on the Old and New Testaments.

Representative Leo Berman says, "Today, with Christian symbols being taken out of everything, off our county squares, manger scenes, crosses, I think it's time that we put something back, and give kids who want to study the Old and New Testament an option on campus to actually elect that to study."

"I don't believe there's such a thing as the separation of church and state. In fact, the First Amendment to the Constitution actually calls on the United States Congress to make sure, to ensure that people are allowed to practice their religion," says Berman.

You might think other religious groups would oppose the idea, but at the Islamic Faith Academy in Tyler, they seem to embrace it.

Brenda Campbell is the director of the academy.

She says, "It's my opinion and the opinion of the community here that any religious class that teaches good morals and good behaviors would benefit children of that age. Children in high school need all the guidance they can have."

Rabbi Neal Katz with Congregation Beth El says he supports and even encourages Bible class in school, but he says they should not be state-mandated. He also says without requiring theological training for teachers, there is no way to ensure the class are about academics and not devotion.

"I certainly think that there is a lot of material to learn from the Bible from an academic perspective, and I think it's important for people like Representative Berman to support efforts on an educational level to teach the Bible as an elective in school.  However, it has to be in an appropriate way."

Some Texas school districts already have Bible study classes. A study of those districts last year found teachers had very little biblical training, and the level of academic rigor was varied.  Often the classes failed to meet even minimal standards. The study found the Bible was presented as 'Divine' inspiration rather than literary work. It also found students were assumed to be Christians who were taught Christian claims as fact.

Rabbi Katz says if schools can avoid those pitfalls, the classes could be beneficial, but if they can't, he says schools run the risk of infringing on the religious freedoms of its students.

Lindsay Wilcox/Reporting: