Hobby Lobby President Buys a School District


If you think the only item on Steve Green’s not-so-modest agenda is snatching health insurance away from eight million men, women and children, think again. The billionaire Hobby Lobby president last month set a new Green clan record for governmental meddling as Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. – a case that if decided in the company’s favor would exempt from the Affordable Health Care Act mandated employer coverage for contraception products – wound its way to the Supreme Court. If the Court breaks out in keeping with its now familiar 5-4, conservative/liberal pattern, Sebelius could further weaken Obamacare; emboldening additional right-wing appeals for judicial intervention. Green has for the past year been mounting yet another concerted attempt at social engineering in the service of his personal theology – this time the way the nation educates its secondary students.

The hard-right hermeneutic driving Green’s activism is his sworn belief that America is in trouble. And it’s in trouble not because of pending ecological doom or bourgeoning economic disparity, but because it just doesn’t know its Bible. And Green aims to fix that. In a 2013 address to the National Bible Association introducing the new scripture-based high school curriculum he financed, Green made a neo-Apocalyptic case for why it’s so desperately needed: “This nation is in danger because of its ignorance of what God has taught … There are lessons from the past that we can learn from … We need to know [the Bible], and if we don’t know it, our future is going to be very scary.”

Green didn’t need such fear-mongering to convince the Mustang, Oklahoma school board to field test the program – an outcome likely influenced by the fact Hobby Lobby’s headquarters are up the road. The board signed on to beta test the first 108 units of the four-year program, which at points meet legal standards for teaching the Bible as an academic-only elective; yet include passages that clearly sidestep Court mandates, such as references to eternal punishment for those who don’t get square with Green’s God.

Fortunately the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma has received formal complaints and is said to be “monitoring the situation”. Meanwhile attorneys for Americans United for Separation of Church and State have contacted Mustang administrators and board members promising legal action should the field tests proceed.

Two generations ago educational secularists decried the Court ruling allowing the Bible to be taught in public schools, predicting the precedent would invite all manner of unintended consequences. Steve Green’s successful attempt to buy his way into a public school system is a sobering indication that the 1960s church-state protectionists were not paranoid after all.

Don Rollins is a Unitarian Universalist minister in Tarpon Springs, Fla. Email donaldlrollins@gmail.com.

From The Progressive Populist, June 15, 2014


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