A Biblical Catastrophe: New Details Stoke Concerns Over Okla. Public School Bible Class

The class, which is currently being challenged by Americans United, the ACLU and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, is set to enter public schools in Mustang, Okla., next year.

Emerging details about Hobby Lobby owner Steve Green’s controversial Bible class appear to confirm concerns about its sectarian intentions. The class, which is currently being challenged by Americans United, the ACLU and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, is set to enter public schools in Mustang, Okla., next year.

Green and his representatives have denied accusations that the curriculum for the class violates the First Amendment. He’s also attempted to distance himself from a 2013 speech he delivered to the American Bible Association, in which he explained that the curriculum is intended to dovetail with his planned Museum of the Bible.

In that same speech, he said the curriculum had been designed for high schools, “because we wanted to reach as many as possible. That’s our goal, so that we can reintroduce this book to this nation. This nation is in danger because of its ignorance of what God has taught.”

Americans United and its allies received copies of the curriculum in response to an open records request, and discovered that God is described in sectarian terms throughout the textbook: that He is “‘eternal, ‘faithful and good,’ ‘full of love’ and ‘an ever-present help in times of trouble.’”

What’s more, the Bible is explained in a matter clearly designed to establish it as a unique, even special, account of the world’s origins distinct from other Near Eastern religious traditions.

“Even more astounding, God placed human beings in a garden full of food he had made for them. This contrasts with the Near Eastern view that the job of humans is to provide food and entertainment for the gods. Everything is different!” the curriculum proclaims. It goes on to suggest that the Genesis account of creation actually describes the Big Bang, and eventually states, “When humans rest and stop working on the Sabbath, they are actually imitating God.”

And that’s just in the first few pages of the curriculum.

The curriculum also lists 64 scholars credited for assisting with the production of the textbooks. Of those 64 scholars, at least 52 were educated at and, in many cases, also teach at sectarian institutions that require them to sign a doctrinal statement confirming the inerrancy of scripture. Several of them have no doctoral education or professional research experience whatsoever. Their only qualifications appear to be a shared belief in Biblical literalism.

Perhaps Green’s curriculum isn’t as scholarly or as non-sectarian as he’s claimed. That could explain why the Mustang School Board circumvented public meeting laws in order to meet with him and his representatives about adopting the class. The board has also been secretive about the fact Green has offered to bankroll the curriculum for its first year in use.

There’s further cause for concern. Earlier this month, Green described the curriculum as the “fourth leg” of his “ministry” in a presentation to the congregation of Mallory Wesleyan Church in Mallory, N.Y.

Americans United recently obtained a recording of that presentation. In it, Green reiterated that the curriculum is intended to correspond with his Museum of the Bible, which according to Green will show the history of the Bible in order to prove it is “reliable” and “true.”

As he did in his 2013 speech, Green stated that the Museum, and the Bible curriculum, would be divided into three sections: the history of the Bible, the story of the Bible, and the impact of the Bible. And he’s blunt about the message those sections are intended to convey.

“Time and time again, archeology has showed that we got it right here, we got it right here, right here,” he said of the section on the Bible’s history. This, he told the audience, shows the Bible’s true “without us ever saying it.”

On the impact of the Bible, he said, “I believe, and my argument is, that when we apply the principles of the Book appropriately it’s been good for mankind.” He added, “America is a prime example. Our founders—you can argue that they’re Christian or not, that’s somebody else’s argument—what my argument is that they took Biblical concepts and applied them to the government.”

“Religious freedom is a Biblical concept — started from the Garden (of Eden). God put a tree in the Garden. That was our religious freedom,” he said.

He then stated that Jesus Christ died on the cross to save mankind from its sins, and said, “That’s the good news. That’s the gospel. That’s the story — the big story within the story.”

“We want people to know the basic story. You do what you want to with it, you don’t have to embrace it, you don’t have to accept it, I just want you to understand the Bible’s story,” he added.

It is blatantly clear, based on a review of the Bible curriculum, the backgrounds of the individuals who created it and Green’s own statements on the matter, that the class the Mustang school board intends to introduce to high school students next year in no way meets Constitutional standards. It’s nothing but an attempt to proselytize to minors.

Green is entitled to believe that religious freedom is a Biblical concept. But the courts have made it clear, repeatedly, that they disagree. Any class introduced in a public school setting must be taught from a religiously neutral perspective. This Bible class is far from neutral.

Steve Green’s “ministry” has no business in Mustang public schools. 

P.S. The Wall of Separation Blog will be on hiatus May 26 in observance of Memorial Day.