Texas versus History


Last week the Guardian reported that a Texan board of education wanted to get religion more prominently into the classrooms. Nothing new there, I hear you say (OK, I can’t actually hear you say that, but I’ll presume for the sake of this increasingly tortured intro that you did, and you can always email to correct me later). Except this time it’s not the same old Evolution vs Creationism Intelligent Design debate regarding biology classes and science textbooks – this time the battle lines have been drawn in History.

The christian fundamentalist board wish to amend history lessons to stress the role God played in the initial formation of America. One of the board members is David Barton, founder of the Christian heritage group WallBuilders whose mission statement is:

“…to exert a direct and positive influence in government, education, and the family by (1) educating the nation concerning the Godly foundation of our country; (2) providing information to federal, state, and local officials as they develop public policies which reflect Biblical values; and (3) encouraging Christians to be involved in the civic arena” – Source: Wallbuilders

I guess David’s been too busy reading his Bible to bother reading, say, the US Constitution. It’s a shame, because he wouldn’t even have to read very far into it – in fact the first amendment in the Bill of Rights is:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” – Source: US Constitution, quoted here from Wikipedia

This is what’s often referred to as the ‘Separation of Church and State’ clause – prohibiting the establishment of a national religion by the Congress or the preference of one religion over another, non-religion over religion, or religion over non-religion.

If David’s too busy to read through the constitution of his own country before making bold statements regarding the founding principles of the nation, maybe he has time to look over a few other historical facts. For example, when we think of religion in America, we might well think of the ‘One nation under God’ line in the Pledge of Allegiance – the patriotic mantra recited by millions of American school children every morning. A line which was only officially adopted in 1954.

Or perhaps the board should look into the history of the phrase ‘In God We Trust’ – the official motto of the United States. Since 1956. America, by the way, was around before 1956.

Or perhaps the board might want to look at the founding fathers, and their religious beliefs.

  • Benjamin Franklin was a deist – believing that religious truth in general could be determined using reason and observation of the natural world alone, without a need for either faith or organized religion
  • George Washington believed in religious freedom, and to this day historians and biographers continue to debate the degree to which he can be counted as a Christian, and the degree to which he was a deist.
  • Thomas Jefferson openly opposed organised religious institutions, and even published his own version of the Bible – removing sections of the New Testament containing supernatural aspects

Hardly the basis of the fundamentally-Christian ideology the Texan board would have us believe lies at the historical foundations of America.

Also on the board is Reverend Peter Marshall – a charming preacher from New Orleans. For a quick flavour of the teachings of this mild-mannered Christian preacher, I’d recommend a look at his website:

First comes the news that more than 10,000 homosexuals were expected in New Orleans over Labor Day weekend for the 34th annual Southern Decadence party. It was supposed to start two days after Katrina arrived… Was [this] finally enough for the Lord. Did He allow Katrina as a judgment on the wickedness and decadence of New Orleans? Well, what do you think? To borrow the saying from Fox News, “we report, you decide.” – Source: Petermarshallministries.com

I’m sure you agree, he’s exactly the type of level-headed individual who should be determining what Texan children learn about the world. The good Reverend also claims there are too few references to American faith in the current curriculum, and told the Wall Street Journal:

“We’re in an all-out moral and spiritual civil war for the soul of America, and the record of American history is right at the heart of it” – Source: Wall Street Journal

The most disturbing aspect of this whole affair, for me, is the troublingly Orwellian echoes – I can’t help but be reminded of Winston Smith, diligently re-writing history for the Ministry of Truth.

“Those who control the past control the future. Those who control the present control the past” – Source: George Orwell, 1984

I suppose the question Texas needs to ask itself, as it faces this next front in the fight against religious indoctrination in schools, is this:

Are David Barton and Peter Marshall really the men they want controlling the future of their children?

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  1. #1 by Redwinelover on August 6, 2009 - 13:46

    I love the way they describe the ‘initial formation of America’ as if it didn’t exist before the white European christians arrived. America hasn’t always been a christian country despite what right wing conservatives think. And it is funny to think that it’s supposed to be a secular nation. I know christians who think that because of ‘democracy’ if they are in a majority in the USA or GB, that their religion should be given privileges, and that everyone should go along with it. But they admit that if the muslim population continued to expand and became a majority that they shouldn’t be granted the same position. Such hypocrisy and arrogance, because one group feels that their brand of extreme religion is better than the other!

  2. #2 by Gittins on August 6, 2009 - 15:20

    That thing about Katrina being God’s judgement on homosexuals reminds me of Graham Dow, former Bishop of Carlisle (my home town). He reckoned that the flooding of 2007 was due homosexuals

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_Dow

  3. #3 by Marsh on August 6, 2009 - 16:03

    Yikes! That Garham Dow fella seems a lovely chap…

    I didn’t realise Carlisle was such a gay town, either!

  4. #4 by Colonel Molerat on August 20, 2009 - 18:30

    “I suppose the question Texas needs to ask itself, as it faces this next front in the fight against religious indoctrination in schools, is this:

    Are David Barton and Peter Marshall really the men they want controlling the future of their children?”

    Don’t ask that. They’ll just say yes.

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