The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a national state-church watchdog based in Madison, Wis., is keeping a close eye on the bible course developed by Hobby Lobby President Steve Green for public school students.
The school board in Mustang, Okla., voted 4-0 with one abstention April 14 to approve Green's curriculum entitled “The Book, the Bible’s History, Narrative and Impact of the World’s Best-selling Book” as a high school elective course.
Green is a billionaire whose corporate headquarters is about 5 miles from Mustang in Oklahoma City. The company's No. 1 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 has also sued the federal government because it's opposed to the birth control mandate in the Affordable Care Act and has taken the case to the Supreme Court.
FFRF has been corresponding with Mustang Public Schools Superintendent Sean McDaniel about the course since November 2013 (also when Green met with the school board). FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel wrote a cautionary letter to the district and requested records on Nov. 21.
According to a Religion News Service story, Mustang High will be the only school using the curriculum this fall in its "beta-test" phase. Supposedly, 170 students expressed interest in it. A company spokesman said the goal is to have it in at least 100 schools by September 2016 and "thousands" by the following year.
Elective bible classes at higher grade levels can be taught in public schools but must be secular, informative and not endorse religion, Seidel said. "The Green family’s constant attempts to impose their evangelical Christianity on Hobby Lobby employees has secularists naturally suspicious that any Hobby Lobby bible class will not comform to the law. Previous investigations have revealed that bible classes in Texas rarely comport with the law, that teachers lack training, and that teachers impose their personal religious beliefs on all students."
"Will the class be fair, scholarly and open, or will this be another attempt by Hobby Lobby to impose their religion on others?" Seidel asked.
These are questions that FFRF hopes to have answered soon and has again requested all documents and records relating to the curriculum and will carefully analyze them over the summer before the class starts in the fall.
Dan Barker, FFRF co-president, quoted Isaac Asimov, who said, “Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.”
Barker, a former evangelist, is skeptical. "In the religious climate of the bible belt, given the impetus for this class, we are seriously concerned."