Help Protect the Bible and Our Public Schools
Dear friends and colleagues,
Did you know that I am an "anti-religion extremist," a secular humanist who is against academic freedom and for censorship, a radical leftist who is against the Bible?
I didn't know any of these things either, until I was informed of them this week by various representatives of the Religious Right. Sometimes I had the pleasure of learning them on TV.
If you want to see one exchange, go to http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,164518,00.html and play the video segment in the box to the right. (This man's claims were mild compared to the ones that have followed.)
Perhaps you've been fortunate enough to miss the circus, so let me explain. Or, go to Google, hit the news link, and search for "Texas Freedom Network" to read stories from the New York Times, Associated Press, Reuters, and elsewhere about a troubling Bible curriculum. (If you go to the link that says "See here for similar results" you can see various news outlets that have run this story.) The National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools is an organization that claims its curriculum is in use in over 1000 schools in over 300 school districts in 37 states (including, perhaps, yours).
The organization's website is www.bibleinschools.net. When you go there, please turn up the volume on your computer for full effect.
I wrote a report for the Texas Freedom Network, an ecumenical religious liberty advocate and a watchdog group, that is available at www.tfn.org. I documented in extensive detail that while parts of the curriculum are fine, much of it reflects a strong Protestant fundamentalist slant claims that archaeological findings have always confirmed the complete historical accuracy of the Bible and that the biblical text has been transmitted from antiquity without any significant change or errors. Despite occasional efforts to be non-sectarian, on the whole it strongly reflects a sectarian perspective. (Indeed, Roman Catholics and Jews will find little about their Bibles in this curriculum, unless they've switched over to the King James Version.)
I also document numerous factual errors. There were far too many to list them all. Some are more important than others. One of the worst is
the curriculum's claim that NASA has discovered a "missing day" in time that corresponds to the sun standing still in Joshua 10. I called NASA. The missing day is missing. This is an urban legend. Its development has been well-documented. Granted, this is just one example and it takes up only a few lines within the curriculum, but it's indicative of the level of much of the "scholarship." Elsewhere, the curriculum argues that Jesus is mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls. It also claims that since all Jewish genealogical records were destroyed with the temple in 70 CE, Jesus is the only Jew in history who can document that he's a descendent of David to the genealogies in Matthew and Luke. (The temple, by the way, was
destroyed by Trajan, according to the curriculum.)
If you're thinking this curriculum couldn't be worse, you're wrong.
Much of it is plagiarized off uncited web sites. I document it all.
districts are paying $150 for a curriculum with a lot of material (of varying quality) that's available online for free.
By the way, did you know that America was founded as a distinctively Christian nation and that many historians now think that the Bible, more so than the Constitution, should be regarded as our founding document? That's in there, too.
It also recommends showing Creation Science videos that claim a literal 6-day creation, a 6000-year old earth, and the simultaneous co-existence of humans and dinosaurs. I am not making this up.
Would you want your kids taught this in school? Would you want anybody's kids taught this in school? Would you want this taught in 1000 public schools across the country?
At www.tfn.org, where my report is posted, there is a petition for academics to endorse the report and call for the removal of this particular
curriculum from public schools. Both my report and all Texas Freedom Network materials make absolutely clear that we have no objection to Bible classes in public schools that are academically informed and non-sectarian in nature. But this curriculum falls far short.
Please read the report and consider adding your name. Send e-mails to Ryan Valentine at firstname.lastname@example.org with �academic endorsement� in the subject line. We have the facts on our side and we're winning the discussion in the media, but we still need as much help as we can get.
If you have colleagues or friends that you think would be interested in
this issue, please forward this e-mail. Frankly, we need the help.
And I promise you, when my critics tell the media that I'm out to ban the Bible, it's not true. If it happened, we'd all be out of jobs.
Mark A. Chancey
Department of Religious Studies
Southern Methodist University
Dallas, TX 75275-0202