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

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.


6 thoughts on “Public School District Decides Against Controversial Bible Curriculum Reviewed by TFN Education Fund Scholar

  1. Steve Green’s Bible Curriculum, “The Book: The Bible’s History, Narrative and Impact,” is appropriate for a private religious school but not for a secular public school because it is sectarian. Why–in this century–do school district Boards of Trustees and Superintendents not understand this? Why would they even consider a sectarian Bible curriculum in the first place? Do they have contempt for the U.S. Constitution or have they been hiding under a rock?

    1. Neither Steve. They see themselves as public servants being paid by taxpayer dollars, which means they are under pressure to make people happy. They are under a lot of pressure from local Christian fundamentalist individuals and groups to have teachers lead prayers and teach their religion. If we were to be able to peer into the USPS mailbox of a public school principal in a rural county, it might look something like this:

      Dear Principal Hannon:

      I made a promise to God at church yesterday that I was going to write you a different letter every day to beg you to put religion back into our local schools.

      Dear Principal Hannon:

      This is the second day and this is my second letter. You need to get a move on with the Jesus program at school.

      Dear Principal Hannon:

      Third day. Third letter. Several new parents have signed on to help me pressure you into putting religion back in our schools. It has been three days now, and I see no indication of progress.

      Dear Principal Hannon:

      Fourth day. Fourth letter. One of your teachers, Carla Anthony, has joined our group. If she is willing to join, I do not understand why you are ignoring us. Get on with it now!!!

      …infinitum ad nauseum

      Now imagine a whole gaggle of people writing these letters and being supported by two really nasty and pushy members on the school board.

      1. My point being that some people can only take so much pressure before they start cracking and giving in—not because they agree with the people writing the letters—but because they are human and every man or woman has their breaking point.

    2. From what has been released about Green’s “curriculum,” and I use the term very loosely, it’s not a scholastic work, either. It’s simply Green’s personal Christian-ish views couched as art history.

      I also disagree that religious schools can get off the hook by teaching mythology as fact, but the worst of the worst take care of themselves in a Darwin Award sort of way because their students are unqualified to continue with higher education, except at religious seminaries sometimes not even that. A Christian academy failed in a suit against the California university system; the denial of student applications was upheld.

      1. Doc, I agree that Fundamentalist Bible curricula are bad for private religious school students, too, but there is no way to legally prevent them from using an incompetent curriculum such as the one by Hobby Lobby’s Steve Green. In a free society the students can become as stupid and ignorant as they or their parents want them to.

        It’s like I’ve been saying for several years now: Yes, it’s true that the Texas textbook adoption no longer creates books that publishers must use for students in other states, but even Texas students deserve instructional materials that do not make them stupid and ignorant.

  2. Once upon a time, I read a document wherein a person was concerned about the absence of teacher-led prayers and Bible studies in public schools. The focus was on the notion that, and this is a quote, many of the students were not “git’n it.” The term not “git’n it” meant not hearing about Jesus and not getting saved the Christian fundamentalist way during the school day. I had never heard Jesus and the gospel referred to as “it” before, but that is what she was doing.

    Of course, given the intense focus of Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism on evangelism, one has to wonder why the students were not “git’n it.” All they had to do was invite students independently to their churches or knock on their front doors to give a home-delivered evangelism session? Rather than have some teacher in a public school do it for them, I think the real question that needs to be asked is:

    “Why are the rabid evangelizers not rabidly evangelizing the citizens and children of their town outside of school hours?”

    It makes sense to me that if evangelizing is your focus, then why are you not doing it?

    And the answers come flowing in:

    1) When we knox on their doors, theyzuns slams the doors in our faces.

    2) When weezuns preaches on the sidewalks, theyzuns jist says “No Thank You” and walks on by.

    3) Theyzuns is dead set on rejecting Jesus outside of school hours.

    No my friend. They are not dead set against Jesus, and they are not rejecting Jesus. Instead they are rejecting YOU personally because most people do not like people that say “weezuns” and “theyzuns.” You have met the enemy, and it is not Jesus. The enemy is YOU. You cannot sell Jesus effectively if you surround him with cornball country culture, cornball theology, and cornball everything else you people do.

    What’s that you say? “Many of us dress real nice, have good educations, got TV news anchor haircuts, wear plum-colored suits, and speak with great articulation.”

    No, I’m sorry. That is just a slick mask, and everyone can see right through it. No matter what else you have done in life, cornball is pervasive and it goes all the way to the bone. You cannot hide it. It comes out no matter what you say or do. Most people like Jesus. Most people do not like cornball—and they would rather have their Jesus served without cornball sitting next to it on the plate. Cornball is like boiled eggs, liver, and fishy-tasting fish. You know they exist in the world, but you would rather not see them presented to you on a plate.

    What’s that you say ? “That’un there’s the point. If we can get the school principals and teachers to present Jesus and the gospel to the kids, we eliminate our cornball.”