It seems as if the ultra-rich and ultra-conservative Hobby Lobby Green family not only wants to save women from the so-called sinful use of Plan B (sometimes called “the morning-after pill”), ella, and two forms of IUD’s, but also wants to reform our public schools. If the Greens have their way, all students will be required to take Bible-based religion courses. (No doubt the students will only study the Holy Hobby Lobby Religion. No liberal Secular Humanist comparative religion stuff for our students!.) The Hobby Lobby family wants to save the souls of all the public school children by forcing their beliefs on anyone who wants to graduate from high school. For the uninformed, Hobby Lobby (formerly called Hobby Lobby Creative Centers) was founded by David Green, the son of an Assemblies of God preacher and comes from a family of preachers. Green, now an entrepreneur worth over five billion dollars, claims to have built his business squarely on biblical principles: “We’re Christians, and we run our business on Christian principles.” It was those principles that caused Hobby Lobby to take a case to the United States Supreme Court against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) because of its inclusion of a provision mandating that companies provide access to emergency contraception, such as the morning-after pill. Recently, it has been discovered that Hobby Lobby’s own 401k plan invests in companies that produce birth control devices and contraceptive pills. Is this a case of having the beam in their own eye? Or is it just plain old-fashioned hypocrisy? Just asking.
But Steve Green’s mission is far bigger than a single court case. He is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a quiet but audacious bid to teach a wayward nation to trust, to cherish and to heed the literal truth of — the Bible.
Yes, Hobby Lobby’s president Steve Green, through his Green Scholars Initiative (whatever that is), wants public school children to believe in his version of Christianity through a Bible class. Perhaps propaganda class would be a better designation.
Now, Green and the Green Scholars Initiative label the class harmless; it is a class to teach the history and influence of one of the most influential books in Western history. Plenty of non-Christians study the Bible in much the same way, including many biblical scholars. Additionally, according to Green, in order to develop the teaching material and keep it from being partisan, the Green Scholars Initiative had input from scholars of various religious traditions.
And who are these scholars? According to one source, a member of the Mustang school board: “Green Scholars Initiative has brought in more than 70 renowned scholars of different faiths from Jerusalem and Oxford to Baylor University to create the curriculum.” All of which tells us nothing about who has created this piece. Who are these “renowned scholars”? How about their names, their credentials? What are their religious affiliations? Why the exclusionary “of different faiths”? Were there no atheists available? Do the various faiths include progressive Christians, or Muslims, or Jews? Buddhists? Furthermore, what impact will non-fundamentalist biblical scholars have on the final say-so of the curriculum?
But there is good reason to believe that this curriculum is no more scholarly than Creationist Science is scientific. Young-earth creationists believe that God made the Earth in six 24-hour days (in 4004 BCE), thus reversing the ground lost since the Scopes Trial in 1925 and returning to the chronology of the world established by Bishop James Ussher, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland in the seventeenth century, which firmly placed the Earth’s creation on Sunday, October 23, 4004 BCE. Young-earth creationists have the most remarkable beliefs. For instance, in June of 2012, journalists discovered that publishers of fundamentalist Christian textbooks would begin issuing textbooks claiming that the Loch Ness Monster is a real live plesiosaur (Let’s not be hampered by the fact that Plesiosaurs first appeared about 205 million years ago and became extinct about 66 million years ago). These texts would be used by Christian schools and homeschoolers to promote denialism of the theory of evolution. One critic believed that these textbooks would be used in at least thirteen American states. To add to the problem, Louisiana placed thirteen Christian schools that use such textbooks on its list of approved alternative private schools paid for with tax-funded vouchers.
Our tax dollars are already being used to teach children about the creation “science” of astronomy, climatology, dinosaurs, and Noah’s ark because right now parents are given tax-dollar funded vouchers to send their children to private religious schools that teach Creation “science.”
What are the goals of this curriculum developed by Steve Green? The Green Scholars Initiative says that it wants to present objective, non-sectarian lessons on the Bible. But Green himself says that the very purpose of the history lessons of his curriculum “is to show the reliability of [the Bible].” He further states: “When you present the evidence, the evidence is overwhelming.” Evidence to or of what? That the Bible should be taken literally? Scholarship may raise questions, but propaganda will have none of that. And if Green is anything, he is a propagandist.
Recently, Green gave a speech outlining his purposes for the curriculum. In part, he said: “With the history, we want to show the archaeological evidences of the Bible.” This statement goes along with fundamentalist Christian teachings that the stories in the bible are true, are accurate and happened when, how, and where they say they happened. This deduction is something that archaeology has not been able to prove so much because archaeology is a science, not a tool of propaganda.
Recently, the Mustang, Oklahoma school board voted to adopt Steve Green’s Bible course. The board, whose district is practically in Hobby Lobby’s Oklahoma City backyard, agreed to test the first year of the Museum of the Bible Curriculum, an ambitious four-year public school elective on the narrative, history and impact of the Bible. What was the school board thinking? Did they really think that Christians wouldn’t use this opportunity to spread the Good News? (My cynical mind tells me that they wanted this to happen. After all, Oklahoma is in the heart of the so-called “Bible Belt” in the southwest United States.)
For at least the first semester of the 2014-2015 year, Mustang alone will employ the program, said Jerry Pattengale, head of the Green Scholars Initiative, which is overseeing its development. In September 2016, he hopes to place it in at least one hundred high schools; by the following year, “thousands.”
If successful, Green would galvanize the movement to teach the Bible academically in public schools, a movement born after the Supreme Court banned school-sanctioned devotion in the 1960s, but whose steady progress in the last decades has been somewhat hampered.
The Green curriculum “is like nothing we’ve seen before,” said Charles Haynes, senior scholar at the First Amendment Center and editor of a booklet sent out to all schools by the United States Department of Education in 2000 on teaching religion in public schools. In an award acceptance speech before the National Bible Association, Steve Green explained that his goals for a high school curriculum were to show that the Bible “is true,” that it is “good” and that its impact, “whether (upon) our government, education, science, art, literature, family … when we apply it to our lives in all aspects of our life, that it has been good.” If realized, these sentiments, although shared by millions of Americans, could conflict with the court’s requirement that public school treatment of the Bible be taught in a secular, academic fashion.
Green’s zeal for the Bible has also inspired him to build a $70 million museum devoted to the Bible in Washington DC, just a few blocks away from the Supreme Court Building where Hobby Lobby challenged Obamacare’s contraception mandate. Coincidental or something more? You know, I believe that Steve Green could have helped a helluva lot of poor people with that kind of money. But that’s just me.
I believe that this latest development from our good friends, the Greens, should be a wake-up call to all of us. Their project is not about teaching the relevance of the Bible as an important book in history; their scheme is about indoctrinating our children to follow Steve Green and other fundamentalist’s views of the Bible as central to running a theocracy. You heard me right. Theocracy. I’m not joking. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.