A pair of religious liberty watchdogs urged an Oklahoma school district to drop its plans to implement a Bible-based curriculum designed by a conservative Christian business owner.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Freedom from Religion Foundation sent letters last week to the Mustang Public School District board expressing concerns about the implementation of the "Museum of the Bible" curriculum.
The groups, which are based in Washington, D.C., and Madison, Wisc., said the course work designed by Hobby Lobby owner Steve Green was taught from a sectarian perspective and would expose the district to costly, time-consuming lawsuits.
“The courts have been clear: there is to be no proselytization in public schools,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “Schools are welcome to teach religion objectively, but they’re not welcome to teach any one religion as literal truth. That’s exactly what the Mustang public schools are about to do.”
Americans United noted that Green, who has mounted a U.S. Supreme Court challenge to the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act, explained that the curriculum was intended to show the reliability of the Bible and to complement his planned Bible museum.
Green has also said the class would teach the doctrine of Bible inerrancy, the groups said, which they said undermined his claims that the course would be taught from an objective standpoint.
“The materials show a clear Christian bias, treat the Bible as historically accurate and true in all respects, and make theological claims, to name but a few problems,” said FFRF staff attorney Andrew Seidel.
The attorney lists dozens of potential constitutional violations in the curriculum, although he admits there are likely more because he sent the letter before conducting a thorough examination of the materials.
Seidel said the curriculum asks and answers the question, “What is God like?” and asks students to consider the various aspects of God, including His love, promise, justice, and presence.
He also noted that only four translations of the Bible are used, each of them associated with Protestant sects, and treats the material as historically factual and accurate – including the questionable claim that Moses wrote the Book of Genesis and critical examination of the fictional novel "The Da Vinci Code."
"The book assumes all the stories to be true, going so far as to list biblical artifacts yet to be discovered including: Noah’s Ark, the Ark of the Covenant, the Holy Grail, and
Moses’ magic wand," Seidel said.
The course also teaches that constitutional principles, including freedom of the press, were based on biblical teachings.
“This book reads like a Sunday school lesson for elementary schoolchildren, not a legitimate public high school text,” Seidel said.
Both groups urged the school district to cancel the elective curriculum, which was approved for next fall.
[Image: Confused student with glasses and blue t-shirt surrounded by books via Shutterstock]