July/August 2014 Church & State | People & Events

Three national organizations have been examining the content of a proposed public school Bible course put forth by craft store chain owner Steven Green and are alarmed by what they’ve found.

The class, which is being examined by Americans United, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, contains much sectarian content, the groups say.

Green, who owns the Hobby Lob­by store chain, has denied accusations that the curriculum for the class, which is set to enter public schools in Mustang, Okla., next year, violates the First Amendment. However Am­ericans United and its allies received copies of the curriculum in response to an open records request and discovered several issues.

In one passage, for example, God is described as “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,” reads one passage in the curriculum, “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 goes on to suggest that the Genesis account of creation actually describes the Big Bang, and asserts, “When humans rest and stop working on the Sabbath, they are actually imitating God.”

The curriculum lists 64 scholars credited for assisting with the production of the material. The vast majority – 52 – teach at highly 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.

These details could explain why the Mustang School Board circumvented public meeting laws in order to meet with Green 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.

Green recently 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 obtained a recording of Green’s presentation. In it, he reiterated that the curriculum is intended to correspond with his proposed Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C. The museum, Green said, will show the history of the Bible in order to prove it is “reliable” and “true.”

Green stated that the museum and the Bible curriculum will both 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, archaeology has showed that we got it right here, we got it right here, right here,” Green said of the section on the Bible’s history. This, he told the audience, shows the Bible is true “without us ever saying it.”

On the impact of the Bible, Green said, “I believe, and my argument is, that when we apply the principles of the book appropriately, it’s been good for mankind….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.”

Green 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.”