- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 1, 2001

DENVER A rural Colorado high school's plans to teach a course on the Bible were derailed recently after heated debate within the community drew the attention of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Custer County School Board withdrew the class, "The Bible in a Historical and Literary Context," after veteran history teacher Marty Slonaker announced she was no longer willing to teach the course, which had been scheduled to start Jan. 22.

"All the good things we believe we're accomplishing here are being overshadowed by the controversy surrounding the course," said principal Harvey Goodman, a former football player for the Denver Broncos who oversees the small school in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) Mountains about 100 miles south of Denver.

Mark Silverstein, legal director of the ACLU of Colorado, said his group intervened after receiving complaints from "several upset members of the community."

"People were concerned that perhaps the course wasn't really [a] legitimate historical look at the Bible but actually a way of imparting Christian teachings through subterfuge," said Mr. Silverman. "It's legitimate to teach the Bible in a secular education program if it's in a historical or literary context."

Mr. Goodman said he added the class to the schedule to expand the school's elective curriculum. With just 154 students and a dozen teachers, faculty expertise limits the high school's course offerings, he said.

"Marty has experience in biblical history, and we're always trying to expand our elective offerings," he said. "We weren't in some back-room plotting fiendishly on how we could convert children to Christianity."

But two school board members and some townspeople objected, noting that Mrs. Slonaker, who has taught history for 25 years, is married to the pastor of the Lift Him Up ministry in nearby Westcliffe, Colo. Others said the class is educational and a valid study of an influential historic document.

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