A group of Concord parents is raising money to pay for a teacher who will teach Bible history classes at Cox Mill High School.
The classes, which will be offered as electives, are already taught at each of the other Cabarrus County high schools.
Although the Cabarrus County school system hires the Bible history teachers and administers their salaries, each school has a bible teaching association that raises funds to pay for the teachers' salaries, benefits and classroom supplies.
Dan Barber, interim president of the newly formed Cox Mill High School Bible Teaching Association, said the group needs to raise about $60,000 to pay for the new position at Cox Mill High School. They've raised about $7,000 so far.
Members of the association are quick to point out that the classes are not religious.
Instead, they say, the classes will teach the Bible from a historical and literary perspective.
"When you look at our history in America, you see it was founded on the Bible," Barber said, also pointing to biblical influences on art and language. "I think it's important because it's a big part of history."
At Concord High School last week, teacher Lane Stallings draped a long blue and white cloth over her head.
"Does anyone know what this is?" she asked.
"It's a prayer shawl," said one student.
"That's right," Stallings said. "It's called a tallit."
Stallings has been teaching biblical history classes for more than 30 years at Concord High School, where classes began in 1942 when the Concord Rotary Club raised money to pay for a teacher there.
Stallings teaches about the history of the Old and New Testament, customs and ancient and modern geography of the Middle East. She has about 100 students each year.
When Cox Mill High School opened this year, the association had not raised enough money to fund a teacher, but students have already signed up for Bible classes in anticipation of having a teacher next semester.
The county school system will interview and hire the teacher. The candidate must meet state teaching requirements.
Led by a board of directors of about 10 parents, the Cox Mill High School Bible Teaching Association has applied for nonprofit status. Members have hosted a barbecue and a rummage sale, sent letters to nearly 300 area churches requesting donations and are planning a golf tournament for the spring.
Vicky Ford and her husband volunteer as members of the board. They have two children who took Bible classes at Northwest Cabarrus High School. She hopes her ninth-grader at Cox Mill High School will have the same opportunity.
The classes help students understand the broad influence of the Bible, she said, noting common phrases, such as the "patience of Job."
"Kids have heard these but don't understand where they come from," Ford said.
Stallings said she's encountered some opposition to the classes over the years.
"They don't understand this isn't a religious course," she said.
Although the Supreme Court prohibited schools from requiring students to pray or read the Bible in the 1963 case Abington Township v. Schempp, Associate Justice Tom Clark wrote that "the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities." He added that the study of religion, "when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education," does not violate First Amendment rights.
"We're not inviting people to take part in religion," Stallings said.
Without each school's prospective bible teaching association, the classes would go untaught because of budget cuts, Stallings said.
"I know people who've given who aren't religious in any way," she said. "They thought it was a good course and wanted their kids to take it."
Barber has an sophomore at Cox Mill High School and an eighth-grader who will attend the high school next year.
"I think we have to walk a fine line," he said. "The teacher has to know what they're doing. They have to expose the content without imposing a particular view."