Halt Glorified Sunday School (November 1997)

A decision to offer “glorified Sunday School” for class credit is making the Lee County school district in Florida the “dupe of the Religious Right,” asserts the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

The Foundation called the recently approved bible-as-history curriculum a prime example of illegal religious instruction in the public schools.

The proposed semester-long courses, one on the “Old Testament” approved in August, and the other on the “New Testament” approved on October 21, were developed with a religious agenda by a Christian fundamentalist group, and have been heavily promoted nationwide by the Christian Coalition.

A school board in Peoria, Illinois, voted firmly this fall not to adopt the curriculum of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in the Public Schools, promoted by Peoria’s Christian-Coalition backed mayor.

However, following more than a year and a half of controversy, the Lee County school board completely capitulated to this North Carolina-based organization, adopting in toto its suggested curriculum for the study of the New Testament as “history.”

The curriculum’s premise that the bible is historically true is its “fatal flaw,” the Foundation noted in a letter to the Lee County School Board and Superintendent Bruce Harter.

“If the bible is ‘history,’ then the story of creation is a fact. Women come from man’s rib and must submit to men. Languages derive from the Tower of Babel. Food rained from heaven for 40 years. Joshua made the sun stand still, and the four corners of the earth are flat. The moon turned to blood. Angels and demons exist.”

The school district is giving its official “stamp of approval to one ‘holy book’ over all others, and over nonreligion,” the Foundation charged.

Students would be required to diagram family trees of biblical characters, memorize devotional passages, list the “miracles” performed by Jesus, and “research the biblical concept of angels.”

“The school board might as well approve courses requiring students to map the seating arrangement of the gods at Mt. Olympus, diagram the family tree of Paul Bunyan, and chart the repercussions of Pandora’s Box!” commented Foundation spokeswoman Annie Laurie Gaylor.

There is “no objectivity, no balance, and reputable bible scholarship and criticism are entirely censored,” Gaylor added.

The approved courses violate the First Amendment, Supreme Court decisions against religious instruction, worship and creationism in the public schools, and the Florida Constitution, the Foundation warned.

“Religion in the public schools is always divisive,” said Gaylor. “Already this controversy has cost Fort Myers taxpayers more than $15,000, has inflamed the community, and has resulted in resignations from the previous Superintendent and School Attorney. It’s time for the school board to put a stop to this.”

The four-page letter to the school board delineated some of the many illegal and inappropriate aspects of the bible-as-history curriculum, including the fact that no courses are offered on the Koran or Bhagavad Gita as “history,” nor is there a board-approved course on the “History and Literature of Freethought and Atheism.”

The School District of Lee County may be written at 2055 Central Ave., Fort Myers FL 33901-3988.

Freedom From Religion Foundation