practice is for the private sector.rnThe Court made clear that not onlyrnhistory courses (such as those approvedrnby Judge Kovachevich) but academic religiousrnstudies courses are permitted.rnThe Supreme Court explicitly allows thernreligious study of religion, not only thernhistorical study of religion, and there is arndifference. Each discipline frames mattersrnin its own terms. A history departmentrnoffers a course in the historv’ of ancientrnIsrael that may or may not intersectrnwith the Hebrew Scriptures (the “OldrnTestament”) or with the history of laternantiquit)’, encompassing the beginningrnof Christianity. A religion departmentrnoffers the religion of ancient Israel andrnan account of the authorized history thatrnconveys the theolog)’ of that religion inrnnarrative form from Cenesis throughrnKings.rnAlong these same lines, a religion departmentrnportrays the formation ofrnChristianity in the first seven centuriesrn.•.D. or the history of Judaism in thatrnsame period—without close attention tornthe affairs of the Roman or Iranian empiresrnat that time, which would preoccupvrna counterpart history course. So therernare real differences between historicalrnand religious studies of the same periodrnand even the same writings.rnWliat the judges, the state, the ACLU,rnand most people (who, like myself, dornnot want state sponsorship of religion orrnof atheism) oppose is the presentation ofrnthe Bible (or the Koran or the Talmud)rnin the framework of religious belief:rnstate-sponsored advocacy of anybody’srnholy scripture as Cod’s word. Whatrnmany—including the Supreme Court,rneven President Clinton —do favor isrnstate-fostered literacy in the principalrndocuments of Western civilization, ofrnwhich the Bible certainly is primary.rnNothing in Judge Kovachevich’s argumentrnsuggests an opposition to the academicrn(if svmpathetic) presentation ofrnreligion and various religions as importantrncomponents of human civilization.rnStudents in public schools should notrnbe taught either to believe or not to believe.rnThey should understand what religionrnis and what its role in culture andrnhistor}’ has been and is today. Otherwise,rnthey are not going to understand thernworld in which they live —down to thernnumerous buildings that bear religiousrnS}’mbols and provide the locus for prayingrnand other religious activities, buildingsrnthat grace every other street cornerrnin St. Petersburg and Tampa. Wlio arernthese people, what do they believe,rnwhere do they come from, why do theyrnmatter—these are the questions of thernsocial study of religion that judges, thernstate, and most people deem critical torneducation.rnBut on that basis, the Old Testamentrnand the New Testament are essential tornthe study of Western civilization. Withoutrnknowing what is in the Cospels, howrnare people to understand the art and musicrnand architecture and politics and literaturernand poetr}’ of the West throughoutrnmost of its histor}’—or to make sensernof Christianit}’, a principal part of Westernrncivilization both then and now?rnRather than grudgingly (and vmder strictrnACLU supervision) admitting the OldrnTestament into the classroom, why notrnreconsider the entire matter?rnSpecifically, I propose (alongsiderncourses on the religion of ancient Israelrnand on the history of Christianit}’ in biblicalrntimes) high school courses on thernreligions that are practiced in the UnitedrnStates, with heavy emphasis uponrnCatholic and Protestant and OrthodoxrnChristianity but appropriate attentionrnalso to Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism,rnnew religions of America (suchrnas Mormonism and Scientology), andrnother religions represented in our country.rnMoreover, African-Americans andrnHispanic-Americans have framed a distinctive,rnidiomatic Christianit)’, whichrndeserves attention in its own terms, sornthat black and Hispanic voung peoplernwill not be left out of the classroom.rnA course on the v’orld religions practicedrnin America would answer threernquestions: Wliere does this religion originaternand what is its history? Wliere andrnhow is it practiced in the United States?rnHow has the encounter with Americarnchanged this religion? In a course suchrnas this, the curriculum would not advocaternbelief or practice of religion butrnattention to religion as a fact of ever)’dayrnlife. Such a course could cultivate a sympatheticrnunderstanding of the actualitiesrnof religious life — and respect, too, forrnthose who do not participate in religion.rnA retired gentleman hereabouts attendsrnall public conferences and fashionsrnhimself a vigilante for the ACLU. Hernwants to be sure that no illegal advocacyrnof religion takes place on public propertyrnor with public money. That is in linernwith the ACLU’s demand, which JudgernKo’ache’ich accepted, for videotapes ofrnhigh school classes in “the history of thernBible/Old Testament.” To date, the InspectorrnCeneral charged with monitoringrnthe compliance of the University ofrnSouth Florida’s Religious Studies Departmentrnhas made no complaints ofrnwhich I am aware, and I take it we havernnot given offense. But we also have notrnoffended the vast constituency of evangelicalsrnand Catholics, not to mentionrnMuslims and practicing Jews.rnSo an academic approach to religionrnis possible and can work. Our departmentrnat the University of South Floridarnencompasses religious believers andrnnon-believers, people who teach about arnreligion they practice and people who dornnot practice the religion they teach, andrnpeople who treat religion as a matter ofrntheory alone. We all share the strongrnconviction that religion constitutes arnpowerful component of the public life ofrnhumanit)’ and that it is something thatrnought to be studied and understood.rnAnd we all love our subject—believingrnhumanity.rnJacob Neusner is Distinguished ResearchrnProfessor of Religious Studies at the Universityrnof South Florida and editor of thernhigh school textbook, World Religions inrnAmerica: An Introduction (Westminster/rnJohn Knox Press).rnLetter From Romernby Andrei NavrozovrnThe Truth About BeautyrnApart from talking about cooking whilerneating and about eating while not eating,rnItalians have a favorite subject, a kind ofrnpet peeve, which they touch upon atrnleast a dozen times a day in that same disarminglyrnartless voice in which the Englishrnexchange news of the weather. It isrna fact that the English really do talk aboutrnthe weather, for the simple reason thatrnwhile the weather in Britain is not as badrnas the natives would lead the foreignersrnto believe —in order to dissuade themrnfrom coming to Claridge’s wearingrnMickey Mouse ears, perhaps, or payingrnhomage to the People’s Princess in somernother, less honestly felt but equally unsettlingrnways —it is extremely changeable.rnSEPTEMBER 1998/41rnrnrn