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New Georgia laws allow public school Bible classes, court Commandments displays

[JURIST] Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue [official website] has signed into law two new bills that may incite court battles over separation of church and state. On Thursday Perdue authorized government-sanctioned elective classes on the Bible in public schools and signed a bill allowing courthouses to display the Ten Commandments. Education analysts believe Georgia is the first state to authorize Bible classes. According to the Bible bill [text], the state Education Department must mold the curriculum to offer the classes in an “objective and nondevotional manner with no attempt made to indoctrinate students.” The law, first proposed by Georgia Senate majority leader Tommie Williams [official website], creates two elective classes: the History and Literature of the Old Testament Era and the History and Literature of the New Testament Era, and requires the the Bible itself be the core text for the course, although supplemental materials will be allowed. The New York Times has more.

The new Ten Commandments law [text] passed in response to recent controversies in Georgia over the posting of the Ten Commandments in a county courthouse and a federal judge’s order to remove the display. The Supreme Court last year ruled [PDF opinion; JURIST report] that displays of the Ten Commandments [JURIST news archive] are constitutional if they reflect legal traditions, not religious traditions. AP has more. The Hartwell Sun has local coverage.

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