The Bible in the Schools program has been around for decades, and teaches – even in public schools – how the Bible is quoted in thousands of pieces of literature, how it influenced Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” and Handel’s “Messiah,” and even how it has been integral in American history and founding documents.
But now there are claims that one teacher in Tennessee used the classtime to indoctrinate students, even threatening Jews.
The details come from the Jerusalem Post, which said the parent of a Jewish student had enrolled her in the class in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but is charging that the teacher “advised students on ‘how to torture a Jew.'”
“Juniper Russo, in a post that was reposted on her wife’s page after Facebook deleted the original post for ‘hate speech,’ wrote that she had been hesitant to enroll her daughter in the ‘Bible in the Schools’ elective program, although it was meant to teach the Bible from an unbiased and non-sectarian viewpoint as a literary document,” the report said.
But she did because the daughter’s disabilities created conflicts with other electives at the time.
“According to the parent, the teacher of the “Bible in the Schools” program at East Hamilton Middle School, gave students a syllabus that included what she called ‘incredibly abrasive’ language and rules that would allow her to refuse to let children go to the restroom,” the report claimed.
Russo described the class as “Christian proselytizing,” but said the situation reached a crisis point when “The teacher ‘wrote an English transliteration of the Hebrew name of God on the whiteboard.'”
Russo explained the name traditionally is not spoken aloud.
She charged the teacher then said, “If you want to know how to torture a Jew, make them say this out loud.”
Russo said, in the report, “My daughter felt extremely uncomfortable hearing a teacher instruct her peers on ‘how to torture a Jew’ and told me when she came home from school that she didn’t feel safe in the class.”
The parent asked for a meeting with school officials, but the teacher declined, she said.
“I have been a parent for 14 years and I have never in my life heard of a teacher refusing to meet with a parent,” Russo told the Post. “Although [the principal] was kind on the phone and I would like to think that [the teacher] will face some kind of consequences for her decisions, it’s not enough. I’m angry and I’m hurt.”
She said she has contacted the Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga and the Anti-Defamation League.
The Post said the program lets students “study the Bible from a ‘literary or historical perspective’ and from a ‘viewpoint-neutral, court-approved curriculum.”
It’s constitutional, based on the Supreme Court’s decision in 1963 that disallowed required Bible reading, but said the study of the Bible is allowed “when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education.”
A school spokesman, Steve Doremus, issued a statement saying, “Hamilton County Schools is committed to ensuring that our students and staff experience a climate of belonging and support. This week, HCS received a parent complaint concerning classroom activities involving the Bible History elective course at East Hamilton Middle School. In accordance with school board policy, the district is investigating the complaint. When completed, HCS will take appropriate steps based on the findings of that review.”
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