Taxpayers in Indiana are footing the bill for student scholarships to schools that push ultraconservative and sometimes bigoted viewpoints.
More than 30 private schools participating in Indiana's school voucher program use textbooks from companies that teach homosexuality as immoral, environmentalism as spiritually bankrupt and evolution as an evil idea.
Of the 318 private schools participating in Indiana's Choice Scholarship Program – a voucher program that uses public funding to help students afford private schools – 36 use at least one textbook or piece of curriculum created by either Abeka or Bob Jones University Press. That's part of the findings of a HuffPost analysis, in conjunction with an in-depth look at vouchers with The Journal Gazette.
Central Christian School in Fort Wayne, for example, uses a mixture of Abeka and Bob Jones materials in its prekindergarten through eighth-grade classrooms, according to the school's website.
Abeka, a textbook company, is affiliated with Pensacola Christian College, a far-right religious university in Florida that bans “dancing” and “satanic practices” in its code of conduct. Bob Jones University Press is affiliated with its eponymous university, which outlawed interracial dating until the year 2000.
Indiana schools that use textbooks from these companies are non-Catholic, Christian schools of varying denominations. For this analysis, HuffPost checked the websites of the 131 Christian schools participating in the Choice Scholarship Program for details on their curriculum.
If a school did not advertise its curriculum, HuffPost reached out to the school for clarity. Our count reflects the schools that advertised their curriculum or responded to requests for information.
Dozens of schools did not respond to our requests, meaning that our count only reflects a minimum.
Abeka and Bob Jones University Press are two of the most popular Christian textbook companies in the country. A representative for Abeka would not disclose specific sales numbers, but wrote “it is safe to say that millions of students have benefited” from the company's classroom materials. A spokesperson for Bob Jones University Press did not respond to requests for comment.
But textbooks from Abeka and Bob Jones often spread inaccurate and biased accounts of history and science, according to several education scholars and researchers HuffPost spoke to for this story.
In a middle school American history textbook published by Abeka, titled “America: Land I Love,” Satan is blamed for the spread of the theory of evolution and modern psychology, according to a book procured by HuffPost.
A high school world history textbook from Bob Jones University Press also pushes falsehoods and stereotypes. One chapter asserts that it was Jewish religious leaders who plotted to kill Jesus Christ, a myth that has long been used to fuel anti-Semitic sentiment.
Public school advocates and school choice critics have long expressed concern that voucher programs like the one in Indiana help erode the separation of church and state by providing public money for religious schools. Of the 318 schools that participate in Indiana's voucher program, more than 95 percent are explicitly religious. A handful of schools are Jewish, seven are Muslim, and the rest Catholic or Christian.
About 4,240 students receive scholarships funded by taxpayer dollars to attend schools that use the Abeka or Bob Jones curriculum via the state's voucher program, according to 2016-2017 data from the Indiana Department of Education.
The discovery that dozens of these Christian schools use curriculum that pushes a specific worldview adds to critics' concerns.
Kathleen Wellman, a professor of history at Southern Methodist University who studies these companies, is one critic.
Students that use these textbooks will “believe a whole set of things that are erroneous and be historically illiterate, which I think is a bad thing for the country,” Wellman said. “And ultimately this is going to be reflected in a real breakdown in the separation of church and state, which is really the agenda of these curricula.”
Stephen Lindahl, assistant director of Calumet Christian School in Griffith, Indiana, disagrees with Wellman's assessment.
His school uses Abeka materials for most elementary school subjects and Bob Jones for Bible courses. In the upper grades, Abeka materials are used in some science courses and Bob Jones materials are used for history.
Lindahl says he is mostly pleased with the curriculum provided by Abeka and Bob Jones and disagrees that they push a specific agenda. He notes that all textbooks – even from more mainstream companies used in public schools – “leave some things out and [are] written from somebody's perspective.”
Instead, he said Abeka and Bob Jones' materials spread “a biblical foundation that teaches good leadership, good morals, good ethics and is based on a Christian view of how we want to live in this world.”
Still, Wellman says she worries for students who leave these schools without having received a proper history education.
“As far as world history is concerned, they're not teaching anything professional historians would identify as history,” Wellman said. “They are essentially proselytizing for Protestant Christianity.”
At a glance
Schools in Indiana that use a textbook or piece of curriculum created by either Abeka and/or Bob Jones University Press:
• Central Christian School
• Good Shepherd Christian Academy
• Heritage Hall Christian School
• Christian Academy of Indiana
• Covington Christian School
• The King's Academy
• Lakeview Christian School
• Fishers Christian Academy
• Bethesda Christian School
• Kingsway Christian School
• DeMotte Christian School
• Ambassador Christian Academy
• Calumet Christian School
• Mosaic School Inc
• Indiana Christian Academy
• Liberty Christian School (7-12)
• Liberty Christian School (K-6)
• Heritage Christian School
• Cornerstone Baptist Academy
• Horizon Christian School
• Suburban Christian School
• Burge Terrace Christian School
• Crosspointe Christian Academy
• Horizon at Shepherd
• Central Christian Academy
• TP Schools
• Calvary Christian School
• Lighthouse Christian Academy
• Clear Creek Christian School
• Tabernacle Christian School
• Mooresville Christian Academy
• Greenwood Christian Academy
• Victory Christian Academy
• Grace Christian Academy
• Faith Christian School
• Richmond Academy