God save the Greens.
As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to issue its keenly awaited opinion in Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stories Inc., which will determine if the company can deny its employees medical coverage for certain forms of birth control, the evangelical billionaire family behind Hobby Lobby is coming under increasing scrutiny for an educational initiative of biblical proportions.
Politico on Monday reported that David Green and family are spending hundreds of millions on various efforts to raise awareness about the Bible, including a Bible museum -- set to be built near the Smithsonian in Washington -- and a stealth effort to bring literalist Bible teachings into public schools.
Plans for the museum have been known for some time, and in fact the nonprofit Museum of the Bible Inc. was formed in 2011. According to tax records, the organization’s founding mission is “to bring 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.” Steve Green, one of the three adult children of David and Barbara Green, serves as the organization’s director and chairman. The yet-to-be-named museum is due to open in 2017. When completed, it will showcase items from “The Green Collection,” which the family touts as the world's largest private collection of rare biblical texts and artifacts.
While the museum project has its critics, it’s the Greens’ multibillion-dollar effort to promote biblical courses in U.S. public schools that has raised the most eyebrows. Through his Green Scholars Initiative, Steve Green has already developed an “academic, elective Bible curriculum” for high school students. And in April, Oklahoma’s Mustang Public Schools announced it will be the first to offer the course. The district is located near Hobby Lobby’s hometown of Oklahoma City. According to KOCO 5 News, about 200 students have signed up for the class. The local PTA remains against it, largely because the curriculum was not made available for public review prior to the vote.
Opposition or no, the Mustang School District is only the beginning. According to the Christian Post, which cited an anonymous source not authorized to discuss the curriculum, the Greens’ ultimate aim is to create a far-reaching biblical curriculum that will pass constitutional muster -- not just in Bible Belt Oklahoma, but in schools across the country. Ostensibly, that means an emphasis is being placed on the Bible as a historical and scientific text.
A draft of the curriculum was submitted to the Mustang district earlier this month. In a statement at the time, Jerry Pattengale, executive director of the Green Scholars Initiative, called it “a logical extension of our museum and parallels its design, which will have one floor dedicated to each of following: the history of the Bible, its narrative and its impact.”
The initiative comes amid a renaissance of sorts for fundamentalist cultural efforts. In November, the Creation Museum -- which subscribes to a literal biblical account of the planet’s origins -- announced a $50 million project to build a life-sized replica of Noah’s Ark in its hometown of Hebron, Kentucky, which has already begun construction. And coming off the heels of numerous religious-themed films released this year -- including the box-office hit "Mom's Night Out" -- Variety magazine recently wrapped up its Purpose Summit, which is dedicated to family entertainment and faith-based programming.
The Supreme Court is expected to hand down its ruling in the Hobby Lobby case on Jun. 26. You can follow updates on the SCOTUS blog here.