While public schools shouldn't be forcing religious education down the throat of any child, having faith-based texts available in school libraries makes sense. A wide range of literary topics should be available to students, including religion, philosophy, politics, the classics, murder mysteries, and everything else.

But with state legislators on a mission to stick their noses where they don't belong, not only do Oklahomans have to worry about the censoring of books by certain parents, but they have to worry about the tenets and translations of a specific Christian denomination being foisted upon them by those same parents.

Sen. George Burns – not to be confused with the wise-cracking, cigar-smoking comedian of yesteryear – wants not just any old Bible to be mandated in schools, but the King James Version. He claims the KJV "influenced" America's Founding Fathers, and insists Senate Bill 1161 will "ensure" its use in classes focused on Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament.

Mr. Burns needs to study the individual writings of the Framers. It's highly unlikely that he's familiar with the Bible – or rather, the Cliff notes version – compiled by Thomas Jefferson. This is one most Christians wouldn't recognize, but that's no surprise, seeing as how Jefferson wasn't a Christian, and that square peg isn't going to fit through a round hole, even if Mr. Burns takes a sledgehammer to it.

Burns may be letting his own personal preferences dictate his legislation. Otherwise, he would understand that almost all biblical scholars acknowledge the KJV contains many errors, when compared to the original texts from which it was compiled. Those scholars also know what motivated King James to order that translation, and it wasn't to enlighten his "subjects" to the nuances of the faith, but rather to present it in a way that would benefit the monarchy. With "rugged individualist" Americans claiming to eschew royalty, why would they shun every other translation of the Bible and approve only the KJV?

Dr. Daniel L. Smith-Christopher, a professor of theological studies at Loyola Marymount University, specializes in Old Testament studies and theology, and he said he doesn't understand the "obsession" with the KJV: "Would you go to a medical doctor who learned medicine from books written in the 17th century? We have learned so much about the Bible since 1611, and especially ways to translate it more accurately and with more confidence."

The New Revised Standard Version, the New American Bible (Revised) for Roman Catholics and the New International Version for Evangelical Protestants stick closer to the original writings, and provide a clearer window through which Christians may peer as they study the roots of their faith. Those translations also dovetail more closely the original Hebrew writings – although it's a safe bet some Christians care less about what modern Jews think of their take on the Old Testament than they do preserving a version that fits their personal narrative.

Here's a novel idea: Let someone with a bit more prudence and scholarly background rewrite Burns' bill, and request that schools have on hand four or five different versions of the Bible, including KJV but also those used by mainline and Catholic churches. Meanwhile, parents trying to force schools to push their personal agendas on entire districts need to back off. Most of these troublemakers are too lazy to be fully present for their kids, missing parent-teacher conferences and other important events, so the least they can do is teach them about their religious faith themselves, instead of expecting schools to do it.

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