Can This Class Be Saved? Bible Course Teaches That Adam and Eve Were Actual Historical People

How inappropriate for public schools is the new Bible course curriculum from Museum of the Bible, a nonprofit created by Hobby Lobby President Steve Green? As Mark Chancey, a biblical scholar at Southern Methodist University, points out in his review of The Book: The Bible’s History, Narrative and Impact, the curriculum echoes Green’s belief in the Bible’s complete literal and historical accuracy. From Prof. Chancey’s review:

The curriculum … follows Green’s lead by strongly affirming the Bible’s complete accuracy. For example, it presents Adam, Eve, and all other biblical characters unambiguously as historical personages. It frames stories of God’s interactions with various characters in such a way as to suggest that those passages, too, reflect historical events. (“Was Moses mentally unstable? No. His titanic swings of emotion and behavior sprang from his special call to stand in the gap between God and the people.”) “Travel through Time” sections found throughout the book encourage students to read biblical passages not only as reflections of the ancient cultures that produced them, but also as accurate historical accounts. The book also unquestioningly affirms traditional claims about the authorship of biblical books (i.e., Mosaic authorship of the Torah) without alerting students to the fact that much of the scholarly community as well as many Jews and Christians reject such claims for many books.

Chancey reviewed the new curriculum for the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund. Click here for the review, Can This Class Be Saved? The ‘Hobby Lobby’ Public School Bible Curriculum, and his other reports on public school Bible courses for the TFN Education Fund.

Posted in Bible in schools, Hobby Lobby, Steve Green, TFNEF | 9 Comments

The Week in Quotes (June 1 – 7)

Here are some of the week’s most notable quotes culled from news reports from across Texas, and beyond.

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Posted in The Week in Quotes | 1 Comment

Can This Class Be Saved? Bible Course Says Einstein’s Theory of Relativity Backs Up Genesis Creation Story

Christian Creationists believe the Bible’s Genesis story of creation - that God created life, Earth and the rest of the universe in six days — is literally true. That certainly is not the belief of all or even most Christians (or Jews). Even so, SMU biblical scholar Mark Chancey points out that the new Bible curriculum from Museum of the Bible, a nonprofit created by Hobby Lobby President Steve Green, would teach public school students that science actually backs up the Genesis creation story.

From Chancey’s review of The Book: The Bible’s History, Narrative and Impact:

At one point, Albert Einstein makes a surprising appearance to shore up a biblical story’s seeming inconsistency. To reconcile Genesis’s description of the creation of light on the first day of creation with the fact that the sun is not created until day four, the book appeals to the Theory of Relativity: Because “energy and mass are equivalent and transmutable” and “all matter is also energy,” then “could it be that creation begins with the advent of energy?” Such reasoning, it suggests, “seems to correlate nicely with the Big Bang Theory of creation, a mighty explosion releasing tremendous amounts of energy.” The section closes by asking, “Could it be that light on day one refers to the initial energy [of the Big Bang] released into our cosmos?” This is obviously an impossible interpretation to attribute to the authors of Genesis or to any readers before 20th-century scientists developed the Big Bang theory. Its function is to attempt to reconcile a six-day creation and modern science, an urgent concern for religious communities that associate the Bible’s authority with its complete accuracy.

Chancey reviewed the new curriculum for the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund. Click here for the review, Can This Class Be Saved? The ‘Hobby Lobby’ Public School Bible Curriculum, and his other reports on public school Bible courses for the TFN Education Fund.

Posted in Bible in schools, Hobby Lobby, Steve Green, TFNEF | 3 Comments

Can This Class Be Saved? Bible Course Compares Book of Exodus to Infamously Racist ‘Birth of a Nation’ Film

Hobby Lobby President Steve Green and the nonprofit he created, Museum of the Bible, insist that respected scholars helped create their new Bible curriculum. But Mark Chancey, a biblical scholar at SMU in Dallas, questions how that could be true. Chancey found numerous errors and bizarre passages in his review of the curriculum for the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund.

Here is just one example Chancey notes in his review of The Book: The Bible’s History, Narrative and Impact:

[M]any film buffs will not miss the irony of the curriculum’s blithe suggestion that the Book of Exodus, which tells the story of the ancient Hebrews’ deliverance from slavery, “could be titled The Birth of a Nation (like the American film classic).” D. W. Griffith’s 1915 movie about the Civil War and its aftermath famously portrayed freed slaves as brutal, uncivilized, sexual aggressors. Originally known as The Clansman, it lionized the Reconstruction-era Ku Klux Klan and helped spur the creation of the modern Klan. The movie concludes its approving portrayal of violent Klan suppression of African Americans with a hopeful vision of a peaceful, heavenly future for whites under the watchful care of Jesus. Needless to say, the curriculum’s passing comparison of Exodus to this movie is an unfortunate and inadequate introduction for high schoolers to this particular episode of film history.

Public schools in Mustang near Oklahoma City are planning to teach a pilot version of the new Bible curriculum in the coming school year. Click here for Chancey’s review, Can This Class Be Saved? The ‘Hobby Lobby’ Public School Bible Curriculum, and his other reports on public school Bible courses for the TFN Education Fund.

Posted in Bible in schools, Hobby Lobby, Steve Green, TFNEF | Leave a comment

Can This Class Be Saved? ‘This Nation Is in Danger,’ Steve Green Says

Yesterday the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund released our latest report, Can This Class Be Saved? Authored by Southern Methodist University religious studies professor Mark Chancey, the report looks at a new public school Bible curriculum created with backing from Hobby Lobby President Steve Green.

Green, as you’ll recall, has been in the news a lot lately because of his company’s Supreme Court challenge, on religious liberty grounds, to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers include coverage for birth control in employee health insurance plans.

The Bible curriculum, which Green hopes will be used all over the country, will get its first test run in public schools in Mustang, Oklahoma, this coming school year. Green maintains his aim is to develop a Bible curriculum that’s constitutionally permissible in public schools. For that to be true, as we have explained in our previous reports on public school Bible courses, Green’s course would have to be taught in an academic, non-devotional manner that refrains from promoting or disparaging religion or promoting one particular faith perspective over all others.

So is that the case with the Green-sponsored Bible curriculum? Chancey’s report raises some serious concerns, and Green’s own comments suggest the answer is “no” and offer a window into what his real intent may be.

In a speech from April 2013, Green discussed the curriculum and what he hopes it will accomplish. Here’s a transcription from the video above:

This nation is in danger because of its ignorance of what God has taught. There is (sic) lessons from the past that we can learn from, the dangers of ignorance of this book. We need to know it. And if we don’t know it, our future is going to be very scary. So we need to be able to teach and educate students. We discussed a college curriculum, but said, no we really want to be into the high school level, because we want to reach as many as possible. And someday, I would argue, it should be mandated. Here’s a book that’s impacted the world unlike any other, and you’re not going to teach it? There’s something wrong with that.

“This nation is in danger” because of its “ignorance of what God has taught”? That doesn’t sound like purely academic instruction, nor does it sound non-devotional, nor does it sound like it’s not promoting one faith over all others. Many would also have a big problem with Green’s suggestion that its teaching should be “mandated.”

Still, Green goes on to try to make the point that his intent would be to teach the Bible in a non-sectarian way.

So if we were to take this book — it’s not about a faith tradition, it’s not about a religion, it’s about a book. Here’s a book that has impacted our world. Here’s its history, here’s how it’s impacted it, and here’s what it has to say. In a non-sectarian way, we just want to teach, this is what the book’s about. And then let the evidence stand for itself. And, again, the evidence is overwhelming.

His last point rings somewhat hollow given Green’s earlier comments.

Here’s the video. And we’ll have more on Can This Class Be Saved? in the coming days.

Posted in Bible in schools, Hobby Lobby, Steve Green, TFNEF | 4 Comments

TFNEF Report: Bible Curriculum Backed by Hobby Lobby President Would Lead to Preaching, Not Teaching, in Public Schools

Hobby Lobby’s president Steve Green has sponsored the development of a new Bible curriculum, The Book: The Bible’s History, Narrative and Impact, that he reportedly hopes thousands of public schools will adopt. The curriculum will be published by Museum of the Bible, a nonprofit organization created by Green to guide the development of a museum that will house his extensive personal collection of Bible-related manuscripts and artifacts. In mid-April the school board of Mustang, located six miles from Hobby Lobby’s Oklahoma City corporate headquarters, announced that it would teach a pilot version of the course beginning in the fall of 2014.

Today, a new TFN Education Fund report authored by Mark Chancey, a professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University, finds that the curriculum’s combination of a religious purpose, pervading sectarian bias and frequent factual errors demonstrates that this curriculum has a long way to go before being appropriate for a public school classroom.

We just sent the following press release.

The first independent review by a biblical scholar raises serious concerns about a new curriculum that promoters – particularly Hobby Lobby President Steve Green – hope will combat what they see as ignorance about the Bible among public school students.

“This is a classic example of preaching religious beliefs in the guise of promoting religious literacy,” said Mark Chancey, a professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, who reviewed the partial and preliminary curriculum for the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund. “It’s hard to imagine this curriculum, with its sectarian elements, errors and oddities, was put together by dozens of scholars as claimed.”

Museum of the Bible, a nonprofit created by Green, is publishing the curriculum, The Book: The Bible’s History, Narrative and Impact. Public schools in Mustang, near Oklahoma City, plan to teach a pilot version this fall.

Chancey’s review reveals that the new curriculum suggests the Bible is literally and historically accurate, promotes faith claims as fact, and advances a sectarian view of the Bible generally favored by fundamentalist Protestants but not people from other faith traditions. All of those issues raise serious constitutional concerns about the curriculum’s use in public schools, he writes.

Moreover, factual errors and idiosyncrasies in the curriculum betray a seriously flawed knowledge of the subject that fails to align with established, mainstream scholarship on the Bible. For example, the curriculum treats Adam and Eve as actual historical figures, suggests that Einstein’s Theory of Relativity provides evidence for the Creation told in Genesis, and bizarrely compares the Book of Exodus to the infamously racist, KKK-glorifying film The Birth of a Nation.

Chancey, a leading academic authority on Bible courses in public schools, has now written four reports on such classes for the TFN Education Fund. Chancey’s reports, including his new review, “Can This Class Be Saved? The ‘Hobby Lobby’ Public School Bible Curriculum,” are available online at

TFN Education Fund President Kathy Miller said Chancey’s review reveals that this new curriculum suffers from many of the same flaws seen in other public school Bible courses he has reviewed for her organization.

“Well intentioned or not, the writers of this curriculum seem to be confused about the job of public schools,” Miller said. “Families and faith leaders rightly have the responsibility of passing on faith beliefs to children. Public schools shouldn’t be put in the position of promoting anyone’s religious beliefs over those of everybody else.”

The rolling out of the new Bible curriculum comes as Green’s company also battles a new federal requirement that most employers provide coverage for birth control in employee health insurance plans. Green, an evangelical Christian, argues that the requirement violates his religious beliefs. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case by the end of June.

Posted in Bible in schools, Hobby Lobby, Steve Green, TFNEF | 7 Comments

The Week in Quotes (May 25 – 31)

Here are some of the week’s most notable quotes culled from news reports from across Texas, and beyond.

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Posted in The Week in Quotes | 1 Comment

Texas GOPers Still Can’t Stand to Be in the Same Convention Hall with Gay Folks

Polling shows that most Americans oppose discrimination against LGBT people (and even support marriage equality), but Texas Republican Party leaders apparently didn’t get the memo. The Texas GOP has denied Log Cabin Republicans, a national organization for gay conservatives, a booth at its state convention in Fort Worth next week.

The state GOP chairman, Steve Munisteri, confirmed to the Houston Chronicle that the reason for the rejection is that Log Cabin supports marriage equality for LGBT families:

“The reason it was rejected was because the group applying was associated with advocating for gay marriage. So the problem was associated for advocating a policy decision that was contrary to the platform.”

That’s a rather strained excuse, to say the least. It’s true that the state party’s past platforms have opposed marriage equality. But convention delegates haven’t voted on this year’s platform yet. So it seems odd to deny Log Cabin a booth because the group opposes a plank in a platform that delegates haven’t even debated, let alone passed yet.

The reality is that a lot of Texas Republicans just don’t like gay people. Here’s what the state GOP’s 2012 platform said:

We affirm that the practice of homosexuality tears at the fabric of society and contributes to the breakdown of the family unit. Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans. Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable “alternative” lifestyle, in public policy, nor should “family” be redefined to include homosexual “couples.” We believe there should be no granting of special legal entitlements or creation of special status for homosexual behavior, regardless of state of origin. Additionally, we oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction or belief in traditional values.

You can read our full analysis of the 2012 Texas Republican Party platform here.

The state party has denied Log Cabin a booth at its convention since at least the mid-1990s. (The party has also repeatedly rejected requests from the Texas Freedom Network for a convention booth.) Robert Black, the Texas GOP’s communications director in the ’90s, called Log Cabin a “deviant group” and compared it to the Ku Klux Klan:

“We don’t allow pedophiles, transvestites and cross-dressers, either.”

Black was unapologetic and even dismissive of gay voters when he spoke to a reporter about the issue in 1998:

“Considering the traditional Republican principles against the homosexual lifestyle, we do not consider the gay vote to have that much of an effect on Republican politics.”

The party hasn’t evolved much on the issue since then.

It’s interesting to note, by the way, that the Texas GOP’s nominee for governor this year, state Attorney General Greg Abbott, backed the party’s ban on Log Cabin when he served on the Texas Supreme Court in 1997. Progress Texas has the scoop on that:

Back in 1997, when he was on the Texas Supreme Court, Greg Abbott ruled on the case of the Republican Party of Texas vs. Dietz, which was a suit brought by the Republican Party against a lower court judge who ruled the Party had to provide the Log Cabin Republicans with a convention booth. Abbott ruled — relying on a muddled conflation of Texas state and US constitutional law — the Party could legally bar the group from its convention because the Texas Bill of Rights only applies to government and the Party’s actions did not constitute state action.

Posted in LGBT issues, Republican Party of Texas, Robert Black, TFN | 1 Comment

Houston City Council Takes a Stand for Equality: Passes Equal Rights Ordinance by 11-6 Vote


The Houston City Council, by a vote of 11-6, has just passed the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which bars discrimination based on race, sex, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and military status, among other characteristics, in employment, housing and public accommodations. Houston now joins Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth and El Paso in adopting such broad civil rights protections for all.

Passage of the HERO came despite a divisive and deceitful campaign by religious-right groups and activists to stop it. That campaign promoted fear, myths, distortions and even personal attacks against Mayor Annise Parker. Opponents denounced LGBT people as evil and shamefully claimed the ordinance would allow sexual predators into women’s restrooms. They also argued that the ordinance threatens their religious freedom — the freedom, that is, to discriminate against people they don’t like. At one point a Houston pastor who opposed the HERO even insisted that religious freedom allows a businessperson or anyone else to discriminate against anyone, including Jews as well as LGBT people.

In the end, however, a broad coalition of grassroots organizations, including Equality Texas, Texans Together, the ACLU of Texas and the Texas Freedom Network, working behind the courageous leadership of Mayor Parker, Council Member Ellen Cohen and religious leaders across Houston, made sure that equality won and demonstrated to the rest of the country that Houston doesn’t discriminate.

Opponents are threatening to overturn the ordinance in a public referendum this fall. But TFN and our coalition partners will work just as hard to defeat that referendum as we did to win passage of the HERO.

Now, however, is the time to celebrate a big victory for equality in Texas.

Posted in civil and equal rights, LGBT issues, TFN | 8 Comments

Houston ERO Opponent: ‘We Can’t Let the Devil Do What He Wants’

The vote on the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance is scheduled to take place in Houston City Council chambers some time today. The ERO would simply prohibit discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on race, gender, religion, military status, sexual orientation, gender identity and a number of other protected characteristics . But from the moment the ordinance was proposed, the religious right has been rallying opposition with a series of scare tactics and misrepresentations about what the ordinance will do.

On Tuesday, for example, we came across a video featuring Pastor Michael Amador of New Beginnings Church in Houston from earlier this month. Branded with the logos of the far-right group Houston Area Pastors Council/Texas Pastors Council, Amador’s video urged ordinance opponents to attend the May 13 City Council meeting and speak against the measure. Amador explains in the video what he believes is driving the measure - suggesting, in essence, that supporters of the measure, including the mayor and council members, are also supporters of the devil.

The video can be seen below. Here’s a translation:

“We are living in end times, when many will come against our faith, against evangelism and against Christians. Now, we are confronting something very serious. The mayor of Houston wants to pass a law that will let men enter women’s bathrooms. We, brothers, have to be united in fighting against this. We can’t let the devil do what he wants. We have to stand firm as a church. We encourage you to go, and united we will break all the traps the devil has set against our church.”

We are, of course, watching today’s City Council meeting, as there will be plenty more to be said about the ERO before council members get a chance to vote. You can follow our tweets at @TFN.

Posted in civil and equal rights, LGBT issues, Michael Amador, TFN | 8 Comments