Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, in conjunction with the release of a major motion picture, has launched a contest to encourage students to read C.S. Lewis’ Christian allegory, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Bush’s “Just Read, Florida!” contest asks the state’s private and public school students in grades 3-12 to submit essays, artwork or videos after reading the book, in which a group of children face good and evil in a fantasy land known as Narnia. The book is filled with allusions to Christianity.
According to the governor’s Web site, the contest is being supported by the two “media giants,” Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media, which are releasing a movie based on the book in early December.
A vice president for Walden told the Palm Beach Post that the reading contest will help market the movie and that Florida officials approached the group with the idea.
“They came to us,” said Debbie Kovacs. “We didn’t approach them. They said they wanted to apply this book to their program.”
Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, told the Post that the state should not promote religion.
“This whole contest is totally inappropriate,” Lynn told the newspaper, because of the religious theme of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. “This would be like asking children to watch the movie ‘The Passion of the Christ’ and to write an essay with the winner getting a trip to Rome.”