Education Expert: Removing Bible, Prayer from Public Schools Has Caused Decline

August 15, 2014 - 10:02 AM

William Jeynes

William Jeynes, a professor at California State College in Long Beach and a senior fellow at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, N.J., spoke at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 13, 2014 about putting the Bible and prayer back into U.S. public schools. (Penny Starr/CNSNews.com)

(CNSNews.com) – Education expert William Jeynes said on Wednesday that there is a correlation between the decline of U.S. public schools and the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1962 and 1963 decision that school-sponsored Bible reading was unconstitutional.

“One can argue, and some have, that the decision by the Supreme Court – in a series of three decisions back in 1962 and 1963 – to remove Bible and prayer from our public schools, may be the most spiritually significant event in our nation’s history over the course of the last 55 years,” Jeynes said.

On June 25, 1962, the United States Supreme Court decided in Engel v. Vitale that a prayer approved by the New York Board of Regents for use in schools violated the First Amendment because it represented establishment of religion. In 1963, in Abington School District v. Schempp, the court decided against Bible readings in public schools along the same lines.

Since 1963, Jeynes said there have been five negative developments in the nation’s public schools:

• Academic achievement has plummeted, including SAT scores.

• Increased rate of out-of-wedlock births

• Increase in illegal drug use

• Increase in juvenile crime

• Deterioration of school behavior

“So we need to realize that these actions do have consequences,” said Jeynes, professor at California State College in Long Beach and senior fellow at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, N.J., “When we remove that moral fiber -- that moral emphasis – this is what can result.”

Other facts included a comparison between the top five complaints of teachers from 1940-1962 -- talking, chewing gum, making noise, running in the halls and getting out of turn in line – to rape, robbery, assault, burglary and arson from 1963 to present.

“Now the question is, given that there is a movement to put the Bible as literature back in the public schools and a moment of silence and so forth, can we recapture the moral fiber – the foundation that used to exist among many of our youth?” Jeynes asked rhetorically.

To that end, Jeynes said, there is a movement across the country to reinstate the Bible as literature in the public schools, with 440 school districts in 43 states currently teaching this type of course.

Ten states have passed a law or resolution to bring the Bible as literature in the public schools statewide.

The movement, however, is secular in nature, with the Bible being taught as literature rather than the word of God. And rather than prayer, a “moment of silence” is established that “can be used as the students choose,” Jeynes said.

When CNSNews.com asked about the secular nature of this approach, Jeynes said data from nationwide surveys show that both students of faith and those with no faith both respond positively to the Bible as literature curriculum – the former said they learned more about the Bible in class than in church and the latter said they have an increased interest in the Christian religions.

“The effects are very, very positive,” Jeynes said.

Jeynes said the data he used in his presentation comes from the federal government (Departments of Education, Justice, Health and Human Services and the U.S. Census Bureau), and research by the advocacy groups Bibleasliterature.org, the Bible Literacy Project, the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, and California educator and researcher Nader Twal.