Professor Mark Chancey delivered a lecture at Trinity University on April 13, 2016 entitled “The Constitutional Conundrum of Teaching ‘Bible History’ in American Public Schools.” The lecture was delivered in the 2016 Lennox Series and Seminar at Trinity University (San Antonio, Texas).
When public schools teach about the Bible, they often frame the subject matter as “Bible History.” In doing so, they are definitely favoring conceptualizations rooted in very particular theological commitments. This approach has a long history, going back to the early 20th century. Courts prohibit it, but many courses do it. The courts’ prohibition to not favor or disfavor particular religious viewpoints puts teachers in a pedagogical and constitutional Catch 22. How does one talk academically about material that makes historical claims without slighting one religious viewpoint or another?