AUSTIN - A bill that would have required Texas public schools to offer classes teaching the Bible as a textbook was amended by a House panel to make the classes optional.
The House Public Education Committee passed the modified bill Thursday, drawing praise from critics.
"I think the committee got the message that families and churches don't want the government to tell our children what to believe about the Bible," said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network.
The original bill by state Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, would have required schools to offer Bible courses as an elective. Chisum's bill called for history and literature courses on the Old and New Testaments. He was not present for Thursday's hearing, and could not be reached for comment after passage of the modified bill.
The state allows districts to offer Bible courses as electives, but only 25 high schools do so.
The amended bill establishes teacher training qualifications and requirements for curriculum standards and requires that the course maintain religious neutrality.
The bill doesn't yet have a sponsor in the Senate.
• The proposal is House Bill 1287.