More Problems with the Hobby Lobby Public School Bible Curriculum as FFRF Exposes District Emails

Last month, we learned that Hobby Lobby President Steve Green had developed a Bible curriculum for public schools and that Oklahoma’s Mustang Public Schools board had voted to approve it and become the first district to implement it. The course would focus on the “narrative, history and impact of the Good Book.”

In Green’s ideal world, this course would be mandatory, though it was only an elective for now.

We already know the problems with curriculums like these: They’re not always taught objectively, with many teachers saying that the Bible is true instead of simply analyzing the text and themes. They preach the Bible when they should be teaching it.

A few weeks ago, when we finally got a peek at Green’s curriculum, it was clear that the evangelism spirit was in full display. The textbook was far from objective. As the Freedom From Religion Foundation wrote in a letter to Superintendent Sean McDaniel, “… 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. Again, these criticisms are not exhaustive, they were apparent at a glance. MPS should refuse to implement this program.”

You can see a rundown of some of the major problems here.

But FFRF wasn’t done yet. Attorney Andrew Seidel has been looking into this curriculum for months and the open records requests he made have finally come through, shedding light on how cozy the relationship is between Hobby Lobby’s Green and the school district. More importantly, we learn that this is really a project initiated and pushed through by Green. It’s not about the school district wanting to develop a curriculum for the students based on a subject need — it’s about Green wanting to proselytize to students with the support of the school district.

The records also show that (1) Green helped the school board avoid Oklahoma open meetings laws (2) Green’s curriculum has been altered because of FFRF’s criticisms, and (3) Green’s biblical scholars are not familiar with biblical texts as basic and central as the Ten Commandments

These are some major charges… so what’s the evidence?

Green helped the school board avoid Oklahoma open meetings laws

There are laws in Oklahoma that require all school board meetings to be open to the public and media if a minimum number of members are present. So how did this curriculum, with its bevy of problems, avoid the glare of critics for so long during its development?

According to an acquired email, more than the minimum number of school board members met with Green and his associates at Hobby Lobby headquarters to learn about the Bible curriculum… but the media and public were shut out.

How did that happen?

An email exchange from McDaniel to Hobby Lobby rep Marsha Bold (and her subsequent response to him) shows that they just split the board members up into two groups to avoid meeting the quorum. Read the following from the bottom up:

Green’s curriculum has been altered because of FFRF’s criticisms

Indeed it has. The public criticism has forced Hobby Lobby to change its curriculum, an admission that there were major problems with it when approved by the school board.

Jerry Pattengale, the Executive Director of the Green Scholars Initiative, even sent emails to Superintendent McDaniel explaining that the curriculum would be revised to be less preachy.

Take this page from the textbook, for example, which asserts that the Bible is historically true:

Pattengale writes in one email:

Also, I had noted that some of the comments were addressed at issues we had already addressed, such as the title of the first history chapter. The simple change from “that” to “if” in the title, which carries the same intended meeting, makes all the difference for those seeking things to criticize.

But besides the word change, isn’t that a leading question, anyway?

Pattengale raises a white flag on that one:

actually they are right, and the very one they mentioned had already been edited.

But not all the criticisms are taken seriously. Which brings us to the last point:

Green’s biblical scholars are not familiar with biblical texts as basic and central as the Ten Commandments

In another section of the textbook, we learn about the characteristics of God. And it turns out they’re all fantastic:

Did Pattengale at least admit that that was a ridiculously rosy outlook? Nope. Not even close. In fact, he said there was no problem there at all:

[Addressing the criticism of] Attributes of God not including negative attributes — the Bible doesn’t list any, and these are in section representing what the text says.

The Bible has nothing negative to say about God? FFRF’s Seidel was quick to offer a rebuttal:

Some of the most basic and central biblical verses do, in fact, discuss God’s negative characteristics. One prominent example is God’s jealousy. According to the Ten Commandments, God himself says “I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation.” Exodus 20:5. Not only does God admit that he is jealous, he promises to punish innocent children for the crimes of their parents in the Ten Commandments

Seidel summarizes these problems and more:

Pattengale’s erroneous statement seems to indicate one of three possibilities, that (1) Pattengale does not know the Bible, which disqualifies him from developing a Bible curriculum for the nation’s youth, (2) he’s deliberately keeping the superintendent in the dark, which is even more disturbing or (3) he’s blinded by his bias, which again calls the curriculum into question.

Either way, Hobby Lobby’s desire to proselytize to children is being exposed every way you look at it. The Mustang School Board members are showing everyone just how irresponsible they are by letting this happen right in front of their eyes with little (if any) criticism.

FFRF shouldn’t have to expose the flaws in the curriculum. The board members or experts appointed by them should be the ones revealing all of this. That they haven’t done anything of the sort shows that they’re just as complicit in this breach of church/state separation as Steve Green.

The curriculum needs to be tossed aside completely right now.

(Top image via Shutterstock)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X