Photo credit: Alejandro Zeballos
Thanks to efforts by the Freedom From Religion Foundation and other organizations, Mustang Public Schools is canceling plans to conduct a bible course developed by Hobby Lobby President Steve Green, a zealous evangelical Christian advocate.
The district's announcement came in response to a follow-up open records request to the Oklahoma school district from FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel, in conjunction with Americans United Senior Litigation Counsel Greg Lipper, ACLU of Oklahoma Legal Director Brady Henderson and Daniel Mach of the ACLU Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief.
FFRF is a prominent state/church watchdog with more than 21,500 members nationwide, including about 150 in Oklahoma.
"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," wrote Superintendent Sean McDaniel in his emailed response.
FFRF led the charge against the proposed class in April when the Mustang school board voted to approve Green's curriculum. FFRF pointed out numerous flaws with the course, entitled "The Book, the Bible's History, Narrative and Impact of the World's Best-selling Book." The course in the Mustang school district was to be the first in what Green intended to be implemented in school districts around the country. Americans United and ACLU later also wrote letters, and teamed up with FFRF for the most recent open records request.
McDaniel said two "non-negotiables" the school had requested from Hobby Lobby were not met, namely that the district be permitted to review the final curriculum before introducing it, and that Hobby Lobby commit to providing legal coverage to the district.
FFRF's concern from the beginning was that Green and his staff were using the Mustang School District for their own ends, persuading it to adopt an unconstitutional curriculum for which the Mustang taxpayers, not Green, would ultimately pay the court costs for the inevitable court battle.
Through its first open records request, FFRF learned that the proposed curriculum contained heavy Christian bias. FFRF criticized Green for encouraging the school board to circumvent open meetings laws, by inviting school representatives to meet at Hobby Lobby headquarters on the same day in two different groups at different times.
Green is a billionaire whose corporate headquarters is about five miles from Mustang in Oklahoma City. The company's first commitment, according to its website, is "Honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with biblical principles." Hobby Lobby brought a challenge resulting in a 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that corporations with religious objections could defy the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act. Green's also embarking on an $800 million bible museum to open in 2017 in Washington, D.C.
"This development is a victory not only for reason and the law, but the sacrosanct right of a captive audience of students to be free from indoctrination in a public school setting," commented Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president.