Yesterday the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund released our latest report, Can This Class Be Saved? Authored by Southern Methodist University religious studies professor Mark Chancey, the report looks at a new public school Bible curriculum created with backing from Hobby Lobby President Steve Green.
Green, as you’ll recall, has been in the news a lot lately because of his company’s Supreme Court challenge, on religious liberty grounds, to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers include coverage for birth control in employee health insurance plans.
The Bible curriculum, which Green hopes will be used all over the country, will get its first test run in public schools in Mustang, Oklahoma, this coming school year. Green maintains his aim is to develop a Bible curriculum that’s constitutionally permissible in public schools. For that to be true, as we have explained in our previous reports on public school Bible courses, Green’s course would have to be taught in an academic, non-devotional manner that refrains from promoting or disparaging religion or promoting one particular faith perspective over all others.
So is that the case with the Green-sponsored Bible curriculum? Chancey’s report raises some serious concerns, and Green’s own comments suggest the answer is “no” and offer a window into what his real intent may be.
In a speech from April 2013, Green discussed the curriculum and what he hopes it will accomplish. Here’s a transcription from the video above:
This nation is in danger because of its ignorance of what God has taught. There is (sic) lessons from the past that we can learn from, the dangers of ignorance of this book. We need to know it. And if we don’t know it, our future is going to be very scary. So we need to be able to teach and educate students. We discussed a college curriculum, but said, no we really want to be into the high school level, because we want to reach as many as possible. And someday, I would argue, it should be mandated. Here’s a book that’s impacted the world unlike any other, and you’re not going to teach it? There’s something wrong with that.
“This nation is in danger” because of its “ignorance of what God has taught”? That doesn’t sound like purely academic instruction, nor does it sound non-devotional, nor does it sound like it’s not promoting one faith over all others. Many would also have a big problem with Green’s suggestion that its teaching should be “mandated.”
Still, Green goes on to try to make the point that his intent would be to teach the Bible in a non-sectarian way.
So if we were to take this book — it’s not about a faith tradition, it’s not about a religion, it’s about a book. Here’s a book that has impacted our world. Here’s its history, here’s how it’s impacted it, and here’s what it has to say. In a non-sectarian way, we just want to teach, this is what the book’s about. And then let the evidence stand for itself. And, again, the evidence is overwhelming.
His last point rings somewhat hollow given Green’s earlier comments.
Here’s the video. And we’ll have more on Can This Class Be Saved? in the coming days.