An Oklahoma school district has decided not to implement a Bible curriculum designed by Steve Green, owner of the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores, that critics said was biased in favor of fundamentalist Christianity.
Earlier this year, Americans United warned Mustang Public Schools officials that the curriculum was problematic and its use in schools might spark litigation.
“Education officials in Mustang did the wise thing,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Objective study about religion in public schools is permissible, but this curriculum was essentially an extended Sunday School lesson.”
Green seemed to have little interest in objective instruction. He argued that the course was designed to demonstrate “the reliability of [the Bible],” because he believes that “the evidence is overwhelming.”
In addition, Green has publicly stated that the class would teach the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, which undermines his claim that it would have been taught from an objective standpoint.
Yesterday attorneys with Americans United, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a joint freedom-of-information request with the Mustang schools, requesting various documents relating to the school board’s involvement with the curriculum. In response, the groups received an email from Superintendent Sean McDaniel reporting that the class has been cancelled.
“In summary, the topic of a Bible course in the Mustang School District is no longer a discussion item nor is there a plan to provide such a course in the foreseeable future,” McDaniel wrote. “All students who were pre-enrolled in the elective had their schedules changed to a Humanities course or they were afforded the opportunity to select another elective.”
McDaniel added that the district was supposed to have had an opportunity to review the final curriculum, but this did not happen. He also noted that the district had requested that Hobby Lobby agree to pay its legal expenses in the event of a lawsuit. Green refused, so the district decided to drop the proposed class.
Ayesha N. Khan, legal director for Americans United, said the district made the right call.
“There is a right way and wrong way to teach about the Bible and other religious texts in public schools,” Khan said. “The Hobby Lobby curriculum is an example of the wrong way. Education officials in Mustang have saved themselves many headaches by backing out of this ill-conceived plan.”
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.