The parent of a Jewish student in a Tennessee school has expressed outrage after the teacher in a Bible class allegedly pushed Christian ideology and told students how to “torture a Jew”.
In a Facebook post, Juniper Russo wrote that although the class at East Hamilton Middle School, in Hamilton County, Chattanooga, was meant to teach the Bible from “an unbiased and non-sectarian viewpoint,” the class was, she claimed, used for “blatant Christian proselytising.”
Ms Russo wrote that she had been hesitant to enrol her daughter in the class, run by the Bible in the Schools programme, but had done so as her daughter had disabilities that made other classes inaccessible.
According to Ms Russo, assignments given to students included questions about whether they read the Bible at home and which books of the Bible they read. She said that students were told about an atheist student who took the class and became a Christian believer and were shown a video which, according to Ms Russo, portrayed Christianity as “light, sunshine and colour” and “all other global religions as storms, darkness and shadows.”
While Ms Russo was already uncomfortable with the teaching, she decided to take her daughter out of the class after, she claimed, it “turned hostile” when the teacher allegedly “wrote an English transliteration of the Hebrew name of God on the whiteboard.” Telling the class that this name was “traditionally not spoken out loud” she allegedly added: “If you want to know how to torture a Jew, make them say this out loud.”
Ms Russo said that her daughter “felt extremely uncomfortable” hearing this comment and that she no longer felt “safe in the class.”
Ms Russo reported that when she tried to arrange a meeting with the teacher, the school administration and the director of the local Jewish Federation, she was told by the principal that her concerns were being taken seriously but that the teacher refused to meet her, claiming that it was against the policy of the Bible in the Schools programme.
Ms Russo also noted that the incident followed the recent ban by nearby McMinn County of Maus, a graphic novel about the Holocaust.
The Bible in the Schools programme has been operating in the area’s public schools since 1922. According to the programme’s website, it allows students to study the Bible from a “literary or historical perspective” and from a “viewpoint-neutral, court-approved curriculum.” It claims to be “inclusive to students from all walks of life.”
A spokesperson for Hamilton County Schools (HSC) said that it was investigating the “parent complaint” concerning the course. When completed, and “in accordance with school board policy,” HCS would “take appropriate steps.”
In a statement, the Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga said that it was aware of the issues concerning the Bible class and noted that both the school and HCS were “investigating the claims and taking them seriously.” The group said that it looked forward to “a healthy dialogue with the Bible in the Schools organisation.”
Image credit: Google