The state school board on Wednesday scrapped a plan to teach students about an alternative to the calendar terms B.C. and A.D., which carry religious overtones.
The board, with six new members appointed by Gov. Ernie Fletcher, reversed a decision two months ago that had sparked a religious debate in Kentucky.
The traditional B.C. and A.D. designations mean Before Christ and Anno Domini, Latin for “in the year of the Lord.” The board on April 11 adopted curriculum changes that included teaching the designations B.C.E., for Before Common Era, and C.E., for Common Era.
The change drew criticism from some activist ministers and religious groups. Some conservative Christians complained the change was an attempt to sterilize a reference to Christ.
“It’s part of a larger effort to expunge religious references in our culture,” said Martin Cothran, a policy analyst at The Family Foundation, a conservative group based in Lexington. “I think it’s not something that's coming from regular people. It’s coming from certain other sectors of our society who think that we ought not to talk about religion in our public life.”
The new abbreviations would have been added to the traditional B.C. and A.D. references.
State education officials have defended the new terms, saying they are coming into widespread use and would likely show up on college placement tests.
‘A couple millennia’
On Wednesday, the school board voted 10-0 in favor of abolishing any reference to B.C.E and C.E. and to preserve the traditional abbreviations.
“The B.C/A.D. connotation have served civilization quite well for a couple millennia now and I saw no compelling reason to change,” member David Webb said.
Daniel Chejfec, executive director of the Central Kentucky Jewish Federation, said he thought the board in reversing itself ignored people with different religious beliefs.
“The message they are sending is that this is a Christian country and not an American country,” he said.
While Fletcher, an ordained Baptist minister, appointed six members to the board recently, he did not direct anyone how to vote on the matter, spokeswoman Jodi Whitaker said.
Nonetheless, “we are pleased that the school board has made what we believe is the right decision for Kentucky's schools,” Whitaker said.