Turns out Hobby Lobby’s challenge of the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, which is now before the Supreme Court, is only one part of its crusade to blur the lines between church and state.
Steven Green, president of the craft store chain, has created a bible curriculum and now a public school district in Mustang, Oklahoma, near where the company’s headquarters are based, has agreed to test it out.
As David Van Biema reports in Religion News Service, the local school board recently voted to teach the first year of the museum of the Bible curriculum, a four-year public school elective all about the Good Book. This is part of the Green Scholars Initiative, which is funded by Hobby Lobby and aims to spread the gospel throughout public high schools across America.
The idea for the curriculum came out of the “430,000-square-foot museum of the Bible due to open in 2017 several blocks from the National Mall in Washington, D.C., that will feature objects from his family’s 44,000-piece collection of biblical artifacts.” Green wants his future visitors to understand what they are seeing.
Green has gone on record saying that his goals for the curriculum are to show that the bible is “true” and that its impact on “government, education, science, art, literature [and] family” has “been good.” With over $3 billion dollar in assets, the Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, has the capital to make his message heard.
But what about the fact that the Supreme Court banned prayer in school in the 1960s? And their demand that the bible only be taught in a secular, objective and academic fashion? Meh. The process of determining what is objective and academic is a murky one, and we can count on the Greens to mine this muddiness for all its worth.
Religious education is a wonderful thing. I plan on sending my kids to Hebrew school and continue to study Jewish texts myself as an adult. But here’s the thing about religious education. It should be religious. As in, in a religious context. I strongly believe that one’s appreciation for these texts is heightened by reading them outside of a strictly academic context, where the moving stories and prose can have a deep emotional affect on the reader and inspire the big questions about the meaning of life. Processing them through an academic filter strips them of much of their immediacy and charge, also making them less likely to serve as the cornerstone of a community.
Green knows all this, of course. This is a man who has poured a considerable amount of his considerable wealth into projects that aim, in his words: “To bring to life the living word of God, to tell its compelling story of preservation, and to inspire confidence in the absolute authority and reliability of the bible.” Which is why my money is on him doing whatever it takes to make the bible study as least academic and completely Christian as possible. And that, as a woman and Jew, is utterly terrifying.
Elissa Strauss has written for the Forward over a number of years. She is a regular contributor to CNN, whose work has been published in a number of publications including The New York Times, Glamour, ELLE, and Longreads.
Hobby Lobby's Crusade To Take Over Public Education