A war has erupted over teaching the Bible in public schools across the United States, not whether to teach it but how it should be taught: by using the Bible itself or whether it should be accompanied by a committee-written text that costs $50 each that teaches “God’s help comes with strings attached.”
The issue is raging now before the state Legislature in Tennessee as well as in other states, where officials have begun joining the move towards teaching more about religion, especially Christianity, although trying to remain constitutional by not teaching students to be religious.
The Tennessee situation was addressed recently by state Sen. Scott Beason of Alabama, whose own lawmaking body rejected a suggestion to use in that state a course such as the Bible Literacy Project’s “The Bible and its Influence.” That work has been suggested for public school students by Democrats in several states already.
In a separate column published on WND, Beason describes his concerns over that curriculum, which he says advocates cultic philosophy and undermines biblical teachings by suggesting the Ark of the Covenant is “famous in Western imagination.”
He also accuses Charles Haynes, of the First Amendment Center, of contributing to and promoting a book that misquoted the Mayflower Compact by leaving out “Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and the Advancement of the Christian Faith.”
To WND, Haynes defended the book, saying a lot of people from a lot of backgrounds reviewed it.
“No textbook is perfect. I don’t think it’s perfect. I think it has a lot of good things. Do I think it misrepresents the Bible? I don’t think so,” he said today.
He cited Chuck Colson, adviser to President Richard Nixon during the Watergate debacle and now the powerful Christian founder of a number of Christian ministries, as an endorser of the book. But then so was Ted Haggard, former chief of National Association of Evangelicals, who resigned in disgrace from his Colorado megachurch after being accused of homosexual activity.
Haynes told WND the book’s goal was to find “common ground” for people of different beliefs to meet and discuss.
“I have worked with people on all sides,” he told WND.
But the book “doesn’t take sides,” he said. “It’s very important to try to come together… There are ways to work across our differences for the common good.”
Critics of the book, however, believe such “coming together” actually may be surrender to the enemy in a number of culture battle fronts, pointing out Haynes previously worked with organizations such as the aggressively pro-homosexual organization Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, and has pooh-poohed the idea that a national “hate crimes” plan in the United States in any way threatens Christians.
Haynes also equated the religious objections Muslim cab drivers have to carrying passengers who have alcohol or dogs with them to religious objections from Christian pharmacists who don’t want to dispense abortion-causing medications.
GLSEN is the organization that promotes the “Day of Silence” advocacy event to recognize “discrimination” against homosexuals in public schools across the nation in each.
Beason criticized Haynes for writing an article, “When the Government Prays, No One Wins,” “in which he infers that the National Day of Prayer should be declared illegal.” Beason also charges that Hayne serves on the Board of the Pluralism Project, “along with a Wiccan high priestess, Margot Adler.”
He further says Haynes authored a “Communitarian manifesto on religious education” that follows the teachings of occultist Georg Hegel, whose philosophy is used to “shape the people’s thoughts and morph the masses to a new kind of community.”
“It works!” Beason wrote. “This process transforms individual thinkers into group thinkers. Since the sense of belonging feels good, the threat of group disapproval inhibits members from voicing divisive views.
Beason also noted the late Dr. D. James Kennedy wrote in a letter about such perspectives: “… It would be a tremendous mistake to impose such very anti-biblical material upon our children in public schools.”
And he said Dr. John Hagee also was critical of the book: “My overview of ‘The Bible and Its Influence’ is that this is a masterful work of deception, distortion and outright falsehoods,” Hagee wrote.
There have been other critics, too.
Author Berit Kjos said the book redefines biblical terms and demeans God, through questions such as: “Do absolute good and evil exist?” and links the Bible to communism by asking: “Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881) stated in his novel The Brothers Karamazow, ‘If there is no God, then all things are permitted.’ Find this passage and read it in context. Then, write a short story about a world in which all things are permitted.”
A review of Haynes’ own writings revealed that he called the election of Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., the first Muslim ever elected to Congress, “a symbol of hope – and a source of controversy.”
He called warnings from U.S. Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Va., about Muslims “bigoted and un-American.”
“Let’s pause, then, to salute that much-maligned concept, ‘diversity.’ Far from being a threat to American values, the religious diversity of immigrants has moved us closer to realizing our ideals,” he wrote.
Haynes also was harshly critical when Republicans in the Georgia Legislature rejected a “first-in-the-nation” plan calling for Bible electives, specifically “The Bible and Its Influences,” to be taught in Georgia’s public schools.
“It started in Alabama, where Democrats in that Legislature proposed Bible electives that would use a new textbook, ‘The Bible and Its Influence,’ published by the Bible Literacy Project. Because the textbook has broad support from Jews and Christians, was reviewed by 41 scholars (disclosure: I was one of the reviewers), and successfully field-tested, the Democrats saw this as a golden opportunity to do something both religion-friendly and constitutional,” he said.
“Not surprisingly, Alabama Republicans weren’t about to let Democrats steal their biblical thunder. Although in the minority, GOP legislators have thus far managed to block passage of the Democrats’ bill,” he wrote. “Georgia is a different story. Once again, the Democrats went first, proposing Bible electives using ‘The Bible and Its Influence.’ Once again, Republicans fought back, accusing the Democrats of ‘trying to put a wolf in sheep’s clothing.’ Since GOP lawmakers control both legislative houses, they scuttled the Democratic bill and passed an alternative.”
He said the issue is “really about how public schools should teach about the Bible.”
And he criticized harshly an alternative plan, an approach that simply uses the Bible as a text, supported by the National Council on Bible Curriculum.
Beason, who is on the advisory board for the competing National Council on Bible Curriculum, led a list of critics of the Bible Literacy Proejct’s work.
Some of the teachings in “The Bible and Its Influence” aren’t appropriate for school children, he said. Further, supporters, he said, “see it as an opportunity to dupe the public into thinking we’re teaching the Bible in schools.”
He cited a reference to labor organization Cesar Chavez being described as being like an Old Testament minor prophet because he was fighting for social justice.
Wiley Drake, who was serving as the second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention, also issued a series of criticisms about “The Bible and Its Influences.”
“Page 29 reads ‘other origin stores tell of many gods who are created, etc.’ Hagee says this ‘plants the concept in the mind of children that polytheism in just as acceptable as monotheism, which is contrary to the Bible,'” he noted.
Another original passage described God creating the world “out of welter and waste” and leaves an incorrect interpretation of creation, he said.
Nancy Manno, co-host of the radio talk show “In Great Company,” also has been critical of Haynes’ promotion of the book.
“Haynes’ background as a former employee of Americans United for Separation of Church and State and his close association with the American Civil Liberties Union and the Communitarian Network undoubtedly have shaped his viewpoint on religion in the public square,” she wrote.
Actor and WND columnist Chuck Norris has endorsed the National Council on Bible Curriculum, which cites quotations from historic American leaders including Horace Greeley, who said, “It is impossible to enslave mentally or socially a Bible reading people.”
Norris said more than 1,300 schools in 37 states offer the program.
“The Bible and Its Influence,” on the other hand, has been endorsed by the Associated Press and Time Magazine.
Kjos, however, said whatever else the book may be, it may not be fully accurate and may include pagan influences.
She said the book includes, “Muslims honor Abraham as the first monotheist, worshipper of the one true God they call Allah…. This shared respect for Abraham makes the long-standing conflicts among Jews, Christians, and Muslims – from the medieval crusades to today’s Middle Easter clashes – surprising on one hand and understandable on the other.”
There’s “no mention of Muhammad’s bloody jihads and destruction of Christian communities around the Mediterranean – from Spain to India,” she said.
She also said the original version also made fun of the Bible, quoting, “Page 117: ‘You’ve probably seen cartoon or movie depictions of the prophet of doom, a shaggy bearded individual in ragged robes, ranting from a soapbox or wearing a sandwich board sign that reads, ‘The end is near.'”
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