Religious education trends, in public schools and at home

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    A couple of articles worth noting — both touching on Arkansas — about the kind of religion being taught in public schools and at home:

    First, from the Washington Post is an article about a conservative Christian group’s successful push to get Bible taught in public schools.

    Activists on the religious right, through their legislative effort Project Blitz, drafted a law that encourages Bible classes in public schools and persuaded at least 10 state legislatures to introduce versions of it this year. Georgia and Arkansas recently passed bills that are awaiting their governors’ signatures.

    The article notes that moral exemplar Donald Trump has cheered this effort.

    The Bible already could be taught in Arkansas as an elective course. Not as religion, but in the context of literature and history. The 2019 legislature passed a law requiring the Education Department to develop a Bible course for students who want it. It ostensibly requires that the course be academic and not taught as indoctrination. Sen. Bob Ballinger was forced to water down the bill, which originally required a school to teach the course if 15 students asked for it, after the House-passed bill ran into trouble in the Senate Education Committee.

    The Post article found different approaches around the country where Bible course laws are in effect. Critics view the movement suspiciously.

    “It’s part of an effort to establish this sort of narrow Christian agenda as the norm for our country, the government-sanctioned and -supported norm,” said Rachel Laser, the president and chief executive of the Americans United group.

    The ACLU has objected to the implementation of the law in Kentucky and the article offers some evidence why from two districts.

    Both are in mostly rural counties where residents are vastly more likely to hold evangelical Christian beliefs than those of any other religious affiliation, according to the Association of Religion Data Archives. Very few residents of either county belong to a non-Christian religious group.
    At Barren County High School in Glasgow, Principal Brad Johnson refers to the school he graduated from and now leads as “a prayerful school” and “a church-involved community.” On days when they are at school but students are not, teachers lead prayers over the loudspeaker. Johnson, also a Sunday-school teacher, says he sometimes drops in on Steenbergen’s Bible class for ideas. He said parents are glad their children take the Bible class because they know Steenbergen is “a Christian man” who leads Baptist services outside school and Fellowship of Christian Athletes programs in school.

    In Arkansas, where evolution gets barely a nod in public school biology classes, sex education is avoided and prayer exercises in public settings occur frequently, it’s not hard to imagine some teachers might go to preaching.

    Another article: It’s a more disturbing report from Playboy on the application of Christian teaching. It concerns the background of several people responsible for recent acts of racially motivated terrorism.

    The pattern of evangelical homeschoolers committing racially motivated, violent crimes raises questions about how homeschooling and white evangelical subculture may be contributing factors in the radicalization of young people.

     Here, Arkansas arises in the mention of a white supremacist who lives near Harrison:

    Indeed, even the most explicitly white supremacist groups are able to take advantage of America’s unregulated homeschooling climate. National Director of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan Thomas Robb is the driving force behind a group called White Pride Homeschool, the website of which points readers to HSLDA and to sources of homeschooling materials commonly used by evangelical homeschoolers, such as Bob Jones, the Advanced Training Institute and Accelerated Christian Education. As Stollar puts it, “white supremacists feel completely comfortable using mainstream resources in the Christian homeschooling world. That should tell you something is greatly wrong with many of the mainstream resources.”

    Let us pray.