Public School District Decides Against Controversial Bible Curriculum Reviewed by TFN Education Fund Scholar

by Dan Quinn

Following months of controversy, an Oklahoma school district has announced that it will not implement a new Bible curriculum that was the subject of a scathing report from the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund this past June.

Museum of the Bible, a nonprofit created by Steve Green, president of the Oklahoma City-based retailer Hobby Lobby, is publishing the curriculum — The Book: The Bible’s History, Narrative and Impact. Public schools in Mustang, near Oklahoma City, had planned to teach a pilot version of the curriculum this fall. But the school district delayed implementation of the course after the release of the TFN Education Fund report by Mark Chancey. Chancey is a professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and a leading authority on how public schools teach about the Bible. The report revealed serious problems with the new curriculum, including factual inaccuracies as well as material that raised questions about whether its use in public schools would be constitutional.

According to Religion News Service, last week the Mustang schools superintendent, Sean McDaniel, sent an email informing the Freedom from Religion Foundation and Americans United for Separation of Church and State that the district has decided not to move forward with the course: “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 said the curriculum’s publisher  would not agree to give the district the ability to review the final curriculum or “to provide legal coverage to the district” in case of a lawsuit. Sounds to us like the district acted responsibly to protect local taxpayers as well as the religious freedom of students and their families.

Predictably, religious-righters are upset. One News Now, the propaganda arm of the anti-gay hate group American Family Association, told readers that the Mustang school district had “caved” to “anti-Christian groups” that opposed implementation of the curriculum in public schools. The article specifically named the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union. None of those groups is anti-Christian.

Chancey’s report for the TFN Education Fund, published on June 3, revealed how the curriculum suggested the Bible is literally and historically accurate, promoted faith claims as fact, and advanced a sectarian view of the Bible generally favored by fundamentalist Protestants but not people from other faith traditions. Moreover, factual errors and idiosyncrasies in the curriculum betrayed a seriously flawed knowledge of the subject. For example, the curriculum treated Adam and Eve as actual historical figures, suggested that Einstein’s Theory of Relativity provides evidence for the Creation told in Genesis, and bizarrely compared the Book of Exodus to the infamously racist, KKK-glorifying film The Birth of a Nation.