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Education Reporter

Teaching Religion in Public Schools
by Allen Quist

With a 2007 grant of just less than $1 million from the U.S. Department of Education, a "teaching religion in public schools" seminar was held this past summer in Stockton, California. The legitimacy of such seminars hails back to U.S. Department of Education guidelines issued in 1998, and clarified in 2003, indicating that public schools can now teach "about religion" in their classes. This impetus for teaching religion in public schools should not be surprising since the federal curriculum standards for civics, history and geography for more than a decade have been calling for this teaching religion in public schools to take place.

What does it mean to teach religion, or to teach "about religion" in public schools?˙Since the education establishment is totally committed to transformational education (changing the beliefs, attitudes and values of the child), teaching religion, or teaching about religion, in public schools really means shaping the child's beliefs, attitudes and values about religion.

That is, in the name of teaching "about religion," many public schools will be engaging in an all-out assault on Christianity and will, at the same time, be indoctrinating our children with the New Age/Pantheism of theologian Joseph Campbell. One of the key speakers at this teaching religion seminar, Dr. Peg Hill, has suggested that the kind of religious instruction advocated at the seminar is necessary to counter what she calls the "extremism" of talk radio.

To these ends, the seminar at Stockton, held July16-20, was dedicated to creating "master teachers" who would guide other teachers on why and how religion should be taught in public schools. The seminar was conducted by the California Three Rs Project, an organization with important ties to the Center for Civic Education (CCE) and to the First Amendment Center. Yes, this is the education establishment at work from beginning to end.

The purpose of the seminar was to argue that religion can and should be taught in public schools and to explain the methods for doing so. The way to package this agenda, according to the speakers and information at the seminar, is to teach what it calls "Religion in American History."

The materials and speakers at the seminar made it abundantly clear that the curriculum was designed to mold the attitudes and values of the child about religion, not to genuinely teach "Religion in American History." This purpose became evident by the promotion of a number of major themes ("doctrines" might be a better word). Several of the more significant doctrines were:

Theme #1. "The Reformation" never happened.

Speakers at the seminar said it is inaccurate to speak of the Reformation because there have supposedly been numerous reformations, and continue to be numerous and ongoing reformations within the Christian church. Speaking of the Reformation, therefore, said the speakers, is false.

In addition, speakers at the conference argued that one group's "reformation" is another group's "heresy." So it's all a matter of your group's point of view. That is, the speakers followed the false doctrine of unlimited cultural relativism (e.g. some cultures revere their relatives, other cultures eat them; it's all a matter of "perspective").

Speakers at the seminar spoke openly about the need to "deconstruct" and "reconstruct" American history — to suit their own point of view, of course.˙This postmodern approach to historical research sets real history aside — which frees the seminar's speakers to construct any kind of history they desire. Historical facts and real history become irrelevant. Shaping the worldview of the child (and the teachers) is the only concern. (See the author's America's Schools: The Battleground for Freedom, Ch. 3.)

Theme #2. The Protestant Reformation [if there was one] consisted of Sola Fidei (faith alone) and Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone).

One of the seminar speakers defined the Lutheran Reformation by means of the following power-point slide:

  • "Sola Scriptura: individual interpretation vs. tradition and councils.

  • Predestination: God knows who will receive grace of salvation.

  • Sola Fidei: Faith Alone

  • Purgatory: Does not exist; no good works can influence God.

  • Priesthood of All Believers; only two sacraments; individual approaches God."

In addition to the false and/or misleading definitions of "predestination," "Sola Scriptura," and "Sola Fidei," notice that the seminar materials make no reference to Luther's insistence on Sola Gratia (God's grace alone) and Sola Christus (Jesus Christ alone). One has to wonder how a Protestant Reformation can be accurately described without any reference to Jesus the Christ? Once again, facts and real history are not an issue for those committed to transformational education. Instead, it's all about changing the attitudes, values and beliefs of the child to conform to the views of the anti-America and anti-Christian left.

Theme # 3. Christianity has had a horrendously negative impact on the world.

The power-point presentation which includes the assault on the Protestant Reformation also includes a long litany of wars that were supposedly caused by Christianity followed by allegations of unending strife in the colonies said to have been caused by Christianity - followed by a description of Christian missions in the new world which compares these missions to Nazi-style concentration camps. Following is the content of a power-point slide the seminar uses to describe what the Christian missions in America supposedly were like:

"The Mission as Concentration Camp":

  • Use of corporal, extreme and lethal punishment

  • Punishments typically administered in public

  • Any deviation from highly structured routine is quickly met with severe punishment

  • Any demonstration of sub-standard Spanish or Latin, or the Christian Faith, is met with quick and severe punishment

  • Men separated from women

  • Children separated from adults

  • Indians who attempt to run away are hunted down, captured, at times executed, though predominantly beaten and incarcerated

  • Spanish is the primary language; Latin is secondary and utilized in Church

  • Epidemic diseases proved to be the most significant factor in colonial efforts to overcome "native resistance."

Notice that the description above uses the word "punishment" four times. The speaker defined punishment as follows:

Various punishments:

  • Eyelids ripped off children who fell asleep in Mass

  • Vaginas sewn shut

  • Castration

  • Needles/nails run into body

  • Needles into testicles

  • Mouths sewn shut

Is this an accurate description of Christian missions in the new world? Absolutely not! We actually have here the indoctrination of our children by the hate-America and hate-Christianity crowd. Remember that truth is not an issue for those committed to transformational education. One participant reportedly said, "We are going to shed a very ugly light on Catholicism — and on Christianity as well. . . ." The seminar's description of Christianity was totally negative. That of course is what this kind of historical revisionism is all about — changing beliefs, not real history.

Theme # 4. The religions of the native peoples are highly beneficial to the lives of their followers.

In contrast to the seminar's depiction of Christianity, the perspective presented on native religions is totally positive. In addition, these pagan religions are described in terms of what the seminar titled their "Overarching Indigenous Religions Similarities." By reducing the "indigenous religions" to their similarities, they are actually promoting the mystical theology of New Age/Pantheism guru, Joseph Campbell.

Campbell said that all religions are constructs of their culture, but the common themes of the world's religions, he said, describe the real spiritual world. Following his lead, the seminar is implying that these common themes of pagan religions are the correct religious doctrines for all people.˙In this way, teaching "Religion in American History" is not only a denigration of Christianity, it is a promotion of New Age/Pantheism at the same time.

Entirely absent is any recognition of the overwhelmingly positive role of Christianity in the world and in the formation of the United States specifically. Where, for example, did the Western movement to abolish slavery come from? It came from Christianity and its insistence that all people are created in God's image equally. And where did our nation's concept of God-given inalienable rights to life, liberty and property come from? It came largely from the Christian church and its doctrines of natural law and creation.

Where did our recognition of the importance of limited government come from? Or our insistence on there being universal standards of right and wrong? Or our adoption of the principle that we are all created equal by God and are, for that reason, all equal before government? All these foundational principles of our country came largely from Christianity.

And how about the guidelines Christians follow for the way we are to treat one another? (Genuine historians know we should go to the original documents to answer such questions.) What model did Jesus himself provide for the way we should treat one another? Was it a Nazi-style concentration camp? Or was it the parable of the Good Samaritan? You be the judge.

What we actually are facing, in the name of teaching "Religion in American History" in public schools, is a concerted attack on Christianity based on lies and distortions along with indoctrination into New Age/Pantheism (which just happens to be the religion of the Earth Charter and other UN related documents). It's coming to a school near you - if it's not there already.

Are we ready to counter this carefully planned, and likely to be effective, attack on Christianity and the real history of the United States and the West? This is Congress in the classroom — and it's not good for America.

Allen Quist is adjunct professor at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Minnesota. He served three terms in the Minnesota legislature and has authored three books on education: The Seamless Web; Fed Ed: The New Federal Curriculum and How It's Enforced; and America's Schools: The Battleground for Freedom.
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