18 May 2007 at 11:04:36 AM
Knew this was coming at some point. Here you have a public school paid for by public taxes that is putting religious instruction into the schools via an elective Bible class. And where'd that class come from? The National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, with the Bible as textbook. Are churches SO worried that they can't get people in for Bible instruction that they must try to intrude in the public school system? And the Odessa Public School system has such deep pockets that they can afford to waste money fighting such a lawsuit that they will undoubtedly lose?
Here's what the People for the American Way, one of the parties suing Ector County schools, says about the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools
The self-named National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools may say it wants to introduce Bible classes in public schools to improve students' understanding of literature and history, but the real intent of the organization is to promote a religious, primarily Christian doctrine. In addition, its manual refers to the separation of church and state as a "myth."
NCBCPS has boasted that anywhere from 45 to 300 school districts have adopted its curriculum, but no one really knows, and NCBCPS won't tell the public. NCBCPS has generally refused to make its curriculum available for evaluation by scholars and the media, selectively disclosing it only to friendly school board members and parents.
That's the most disturbing part of this, IMO. If an entity wants to teach in the public schools, then ANYONE should be able to not only examine but discuss the curriculum proposed to be taught.
In 1998, after a federal court in Florida prohibited the Lee County public school district, on constitutional grounds, from teaching the NCBCPS "New Testament" curriculum, NCBCPS denied that it was their curriculum at all.
NCBCPS often says its curriculum is not controversial and that nearly every approached school board has adopted it. In fact, these school boards recently rejected NCBCPS's curriculum: North Kansas City, Missouri; Midland, Texas; and Peoria, Illinois.
Who is behind the NCBCPS?
- NCBCPS board of directors and advisory board have included Religious Right leaders like televangelist D. James Kennedy, President of Coral Ridge Ministries, who has called public schools "Godless" and actively campaigned for the impeachment of a federal judge who ordered a proselytizing state judge in Alabama to remove the Ten Commandments from his courtroom. Kennedy also has a well-documented history of raising money by promoting the false and inflammatory stereotype that gays and lesbians are child molesters.
- Howard Phillips of the Conservative Caucus and Rus Walton of the Plymouth Rock Foundation have also served on NCBCPS boards. Both Phillips and Walton are considered Christian Reconstructionists – advocates of theocracy with a government based on a literal reading of the Bible, including the harsh legal code of the "Old Testament." Under this model, as many as 18 "offenses," including blasphemy, adultery and persistent juvenile delinquency would merit the death penalty.
- NCBCPS circulates material by David Barton, who produces historically inaccurate videotapes and books asserting that the constitutionally-required separation of church and state was invented by the Supreme Court.
- NCBCPS often cites materials from the American Center For Law and Justice to defend the constitutionality of its curriculum. ACLJ was founded by televangelist Pat Robertson.
In 2005, the NCBCPS revised its curriculum, which was pushing that there is NO separation of church and state. But didn't revise it much, apparently.
Unfortunately, citizens, educators, and scholars have good reason to remain concerned about the NCBCPS. Though many of the curriculum’s most egregious errors and sectarian statements have been removed, it is not free of problems. The new edition, like the older one, does not identify any author. Though it claims that it has been reviewed by "primary scholars," not a single one with a full-time academic position is named. Similarly, it continues to rely heavily upon popular-level (rather than scholarly) resources written primarily from a conservative Protestant perspective. Some of these resources are idiosyncratic, such as the writings of Robert Cornuke, who claims to have identified the biblical Mt. Sinai in Saudi Arabia. Much of the content, such as almost the entire chapter on "Biblical Art," is still reproduced word for word from Internet sources. It remains unclear why a curriculum containing so much material available online for free costs $150.
In addition, there are still problems in content. For example, discussion of Jesus’ last week reflects a problematic harmonization of the Gospels, and the consideration of the dating of the Exodus is still murky. "Action Statements" for the Dead Sea Scrolls still imply that the view that the Dead Sea Scrolls directly link Judaism and Christianity is more widespread than it actually is (very few scholars hold this position) and that the scrolls prove that the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible is equivalent with the "original text." Some typographical and factual errors remain.
Most troubling is the fact that the new curriculum still clearly reflects a political agenda. Like the old version, it seems to Christianize America and Americanize the Bible. It continues to recommend the resources of WallBuilders, an organization devoted to the opposition of church-state separation, and it still advocates showing that group's video, Foundations of American Government, at the beginning of the course. This video, narrated by the founder of WallBuilders, David Barton, argues that the Founding Fathers never intended for church and state to be separated and that America has descended into social chaos since devotional Bible reading and prayer were removed from public schools. The curriculum's disclaimer that the video is just "one perspective" and "one historian’s viewpoint" (page 11) that should be balanced with other perspectives does not alleviate the problem, especially since no other perspectives are even discussed. Despite the curriculum's characterization of Barton as a historian, he is neither an educator nor an academic. He is a political activist who is highly influential on a national level. Foundations of American Government is not an educational video; it is political propaganda. Another Barton video with similar content, America's Godly Heritage, was banned from classroom use in Herdahl v. Pontotoc County School District (N. D. Miss. 1996).
Unit 17, "The Bible in History," contains fewer direct quotations from Barton's books and has been reorganized, with some parts rewritten entirely. The unit still goes well beyond a discussion of the Bible's influence on American society to make a broader argument for an increased role of religion in public and civic life. There is simply no other explanation for the new content on pages 237-240 entitled "Observations of the Supreme Court," which discusses the legality of civic nativity scenes, congressional prayers, Thanksgiving holiday, the motto "In God We Trust," and the phrase "One Nation Under God." The following pages (241-250) duplicate material from the previous edition of the curriculum, with numerous quotations--some of them spurious--on the importance of the Bible and Christianity set against the backdrop of images of the American flag and soldiers. Both this unit and Unit 6 ("Hebrew Law") include out-of-context quotations from the Founding Fathers that imply that the idea of separation of church and state is misguided. Since no quotations from famous figures supporting church-state separation are included, the curriculum's own position is quite clear--and it is the position of the NCBCPS’s endorsers and advisors, the belief that America was founded as a distinctively Christian nation and should remain so
I'm sure this case will crawl through the court, but undoubtedly will be smacked down eventually, as it should be. It continues to amaze me that individual school districts want to waste their tax money on cases such as this, when, if schools would just leave teaching religion to the religious community, there would be NO ISSUE. It isn't like ANYONE is trying to STOP churches from teaching religion, in virtually any fashion the churches want, to their eager parishioners.
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