Displaying 30+ Stories
Allow Ads

News Network Bashes Voluntary Bible Education Program: 'It Genuinely Felt Like an SNL Skit'

Photo: MSNBC/YouTube
Photo: MSNBC/YouTube

The founder and CEO of an organization that provides Bible education during the public school day said recent MSNBC coverage of his efforts was so bizarre it felt like a “Saturday Night Live” skit.

Listen to them on the latest episode of “Quick Start”:

“The MSNBC piece frankly, to me, was hilarious,” Joel Penton founder of LifeWise Academy, told CBN News. “It genuinely felt like an ‘SNL’ skit.”

Even a brief viewing of the nine-minute MSNBC segment — which reportedly left out positive data from LifeWise showing academic improvements among participants — provides context to exactly what Penton is describing.

Titled, “Christian group uses public school-adjacent Bible study program to breach church-state wall,” the video segment, led by host Alex Wagner, said LifeWise is “raising serious questions about the separation of church and state” despite Bible studies taking place during free periods and off campus.

“Penton’s LifeWise Academy is currently influencing the minds of public school kids in progressive cities like Columbus,” Wagner, who called Penton’s work “distressing,” said. She added he wants to reach every public school in America and warned of the impact on progressive ideals.

Wagner continued, “Blue Islands … those blue islands in red states and swing states … they could be swayed by LifeWise.”

At other points in the report, warnings were heeded that some LifeWise chapters “promised ice cream or popcorn parties if kids got their friends to sign up” and that the organization somehow “found a legal way to offer Bible lessons.”

“I just wonder if this is not running afoul of certain First Amendment stuff,” Wagner added.

Penton found the entire segment — a segment for which he and his team willingly sat down with NBC — quite odd.

“That they would turn it into something that they find distressing … it was funny,” he said.

Watch Penton respond:

Penton said he has done many interviews about LifeWise and spent a long time with the NBC team. He was surprised to see it all boiled down into a few minutes, with the material being framed in a way that “wasn’t really balanced.”

So far, LifeWise has exceeded its goal of reaching 25 schools by 2025 and is already in more than 300 schools in multiple states — and the organization is only poised to grow.

Penton explained the parameters of how it all works.

“In the same way that a child will maybe have art class once a week, and music class once a week, and gym class a couple times a week, through our program, a public school student can have Bible class once per week,” he said. “It has to be off school property, privately-funded, parent-permitted, but the Supreme Court has ruled on this, there’s state laws about it.”

Penton is referring to “release time” rules allowing kids to get religious instruction during the school day. LifeWise launched in 2019, after Penton heard about another effort in his hometown of Van Wert, Ohio, to educate children about Christian values during the public school day.

“We were inspired by a program that started in my hometown in 2012,” he said in a past interview with CBN. “People in my hometown started what’s known as a Released Time religious instruction program. Very few people are aware that, in 1952, the Supreme Court ruled that public school students can be released from public school during school hours to attend religious classes.”

Penton is speaking about Zorach v. Clauson, a 6-3 Supreme Court case that ruled released time instruction is constitutional and permissible.

In light of this longstanding reality, Penton found the political focus of NBC reporting particularly odd — something he even noticed during the questioning while filming the interview.

“They wanted to talk about political things and I kept saying, repeatedly, ‘We’re not … a political organization,'” he said. “We’re teaching Bible stories to kids.”

One of the most surprising elements of the final version of the NBC interview centered on the network’s purported decision to leave out statistics LifeWise found in a recent study — data showing the profound benefits that can come from bringing God and faith into children’s lives.

“We shared [the numbers] repeatedly,” Penton said. “There’s a third-party independent study that shows when a school implements LifeWise, their attendance goes up. … It was left out.”

Despite Wagner feeling “distressed,” Penton said LifeWise is changing lives.

“We’re getting stories of kids that are coming to faith, asking to be baptized,” he said. “Families that are reconnecting to the church, schools that are being transformed, public school teachers that are saying, ‘Whatever you’re doing over there at that LifeWise thing, please keep it up, because I see the change in my students.'”

As CBN previously reported, atheist activists have also targeted LifeWise. The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist activist group based in Madison, Wisconsin, took action last year to try to dissuade schools from participating.

“They sent a letter out to every single superintendent in the state of Ohio, in part, because LifeWise is spreading so rapidly in Ohio, and … next year we will be in a full quarter of the 600 school districts in the state,” Penton explained. “But the letter didn’t necessarily make a strong case for why schools shouldn’t allow this type of thing.”

Find out more about LifeWise here.

***As the number of voices facing big-tech censorship continues to grow, please sign up for Faithwire’s daily newsletter and download the CBN News app, to stay up-to-date with the latest news from a distinctly Christian perspective.***

Did you know?

God is everywhere—even in the news. That’s why we view every news story through the lens of faith. We are committed to delivering quality independent Christian journalism you can trust. But it takes a lot of hard work, time, and money to do what we do. Help us continue to be a voice for truth in the media by supporting CBN News for as little as $1.