When “Separation of Church and State” Becomes a Lame Excuse

by hamiltonmj1983

I requested a new book to be used for my course this fall. The course is a Survey of the Old Testament. I am going to be using Michael Coogan’s “A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament,” and I felt as though it might be good to make my students all purchase the same translation of the Bible, preferably “The New Oxford Annotated Bible,” NRSV with Apocrypha.

Now, in my head this made sense. That was the Bible required while I was in my religion courses during undergrad. Students have been confused at times this semester when students have read passages out of KJV when everyone else had NIV or RSV. Why not require just one translation?

Did I mention that I teach at a state community college? The response to this request was, “I don’t think that is going to fly. ‘Separation of Church and State’ and all, we don’t want to risk having students complain that they were forced to buy a Bible.”

Really? Really…

If I was teaching an English class, and we were learning about Macbeth, would I not be allowed to require my students to purchase Macbeth?

I am teaching a course on the Old Testament, but am not allowed to use the Old Testament as required reading? If I was teaching a course on Islam, I would certainly want to use the Qur’an as a text! Yet I was told that wouldn’t be allowed, anyway.

Other than the fact that these people are COMPLETELY misunderstanding the entire establishment clause, I am not promoting Christianity by requiring the students to purchase a Bible. I am requiring them to study the original materials, instead of only studying commentary on them.

Am I right to be frustrated, or is this normal? For any of you who teach in a public or state school, is this the norm?