Turning Public Schools into Sunday Schools

Turning Public Schools into Sunday Schools

TFN and Clergy Call on Education Officials to Warn Parents, Public Schools about Inappropriate Bible Curriculum
August 1, 2005

AUSTIN – The Texas Freedom Network and an interfaith group of clergy today called on education officials to alert parents and public schools about an error-filled, sectarian Bible curriculum being aggressively marketed across the country.

“This curriculum is simply an attempt to use public schools to interfere with the freedom of families to practice their own faiths and pass on their own religious values to their children,” said TFN President Kathy Miller. “The curriculum’s supporters are demonstrating a fundamental misunderstanding of what religious freedom really means.”

Miller announced the release of The Bible and Public Schools: Report on the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, a report that examines the Bible study class. Authored for the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund by Dr. Mark Chancey of Southern Methodist University, the report can be found here. TFN also released copies of letters to the U.S. secretary of education and the Texas education commissioner about the Bible curriculum and report. TFN is also sending letters about the curriculum to every school district in Texas.

Dr. Chancey, a professor of biblical studies in the Department of Religious Studies at SMU, said the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBCPS) course is inappropriate for use in any public school classroom.

“This curriculum on the whole is a sectarian document,” Dr. Chancey said. “It attempts to persuade students to adopt views that are held primarily within certain conservative Protestant circles but not among most Roman Catholics, other Christians, and Jews, and certainly not within the scholarly community.”

The North Carolina-based NCBCPS claims that 1,000 high schools in 37 states including 52 school districts in Texas use its curriculum, The Bible in History and Literature. The group has not released a list of those schools, but school districts in Odessa (West Texas) and Grand Prairie (North Texas) have recently considered the curriculum.

Dr. Chancey’s in-depth analysis of the NCBCPS curriculum documents numerous errors, examples of shoddy research and inappropriate use of outside sources throughout the course materials. For example, about a third of the curriculum’s pages appear to be material copied directly from sources with minimal or no rewording.

“It would be unreasonable to expect teachers without advanced training in biblical studies to recognize all of these flaws, but it’s not unreasonable to expect a good curriculum to be free of them,” Dr. Chancey said. “This curriculum fails that test miserably.”

Clergy from various faiths also expressed concerns about the curriculum.

“I’m all for teaching kids about the Bible. We do it in our church every Sunday,” said Rev. Ragan Courtney of The Sanctuary, a Baptist congregation in Austin. “But this curriculum is disrespectful to families who do not share a specific brand of Christian faith. No public school student should have to have a particular religious belief forced upon them.”