Oklahoma high school drops Bible elective despite strong student interest

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |
Psalterium Gallicanum Feriatum, 1420, is among the Green Collection of 40,000 rare and significant biblical texts and artifacts. Highlights of the Green Collection include cuneiform tablets dating from the time of Abraham, Dead Sea Scroll fragments, biblical papyri and manuscripts, Torah scrolls, and rare printed Bibles.

MUSTANG, Okla. (Christian Examiner) -- Mustang Public Schools in Oklahoma has canceled an elective Bible course featuring curriculum developed by Hobby Lobby President Steve Green that was set to be available in schools this January.

The course initially was approved in April with a vote of four yes, none against and one abstention by the school board. The elective reportedly had captured the interest of 170 students--of the 1,714 students enrolled at Mustang High School--who made it their first choice for an optional class when polled about the matter.

But two anti-religion groups, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation and the D.C.-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State, wrote the school board complaining the materials were biased, and took particular issue with a statement claiming the Bible a "reliable historic source."

They also took issue with the curriculum's statement on the Bible as "historically accurate and true in all respects." There also were questions around the school board's involvement in the curriculum's creation.

In an email to the FFRA and AUSCS, Superintendent Sean McDaniel wrote "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."

Religion News Service reported the superintendent said that the decision resulted from an inability by the school board to review the final curriculum, and a lack of "commitment" by Green to "provide legal coverage to the district" if faced with a lawsuit.

The FFRA on their website takes credit for leading the charge against the proposed class.

"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," said Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president.

Despite this defeat in Oklahoma, course representative and editor Jerry Pattengale said he is not deterred by the setback and plans to attempt distributing the curriculum in other districts.

"We understand Mustang's decision to withdraw the new, elective Bible course from consideration," Pattengale said. "Museum of the Bible remains committed to providing an elective high school Bible curriculum and continues work on an innovative, high-tech course that will provide students and teachers with a scholarly overview of the Bible's history, narrative and impact."

The Museum of the Bible, which will feature the Green family's vast collection of biblical artifacts, is slated to open in Washington, D.C. in 2017.