For Immediate Release
(Washington, D.C., August 5, 2009) The American Humanist Association responded today to a letter from Texas State Board of Education Member Don McLeroy, arguing that social studies classes should not aim to promote religion and should accurately portray the secular nature of
the United States government. McLeroy had responded to an open letter the American Humanist Association sent to the Texas State Board of Education last Thursday, prompted by reports the Board had been advised to include the “biblical motivations” of the founders in the state’s new social studies curriculum. In McLeroy’s e-mail to the American Humanist Association, he stated he disagreed with the group and cited an essay he wrote in 2002 titled “The Gift of Medieval Christendom to the World.” (The letter sent to the Texas State School Board of Education can be found here: http://www.americanhumanist.org/news/details/2009-07-humanists-say-to-texas-state-board-of-education-dont-mess-with-tex and McLeroy’s response can be found here: http://www.americanhumanist.org/2009/McLeroy_Letter)
“There is an obvious religious agenda at work here,” said Bob Bhaerman, coordinator of the Kochhar Humanist Education Center, a program of the American Humanist Association. “Social studies should provide children with a solid understanding of how our government works, and any accurate account of our government and our Constitution would naturally include information about its secular nature.”
“Although religion certainly has played a role in our nation’s history that could be taught in public schools, any social studies curriculum that covers religion should supply the facts in an unbiased, objective way—promotion of Christianity over other faiths isn’t allowed,” continued Bhaerman. “To do so not only violates the separation of church and state, but it is disrespectful of the millions of public school children who don’t subscribe to the Christian faith.”
McLeroy has been a vocal proponent of teaching about the influence of the bible in classrooms, arguing on an episode of Fox and Friends that the Declaration of Independence is based on biblical principles and that the Constitution mandates the separation of powers in recognition that people are sinners. The essay he sent the American Humanist Association also argues that basic American values of freedom, equality and limited government are based on the Judeo-Christian tradition.
“McLeroy is certainly entitled to his belief that Christian values are more beneficial to society than secular values,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “However, that is a subjective opinion that shouldn’t be foisted upon public school children as fact. Moreover, to claim that our founding documents are Christian in nature is simply inaccurate. The Founders were heavily influenced by Enlightenment principles, which emphasized logic and reason over religious authority. The U.S. Constitution is a secular document that was written, in part, to expressly prohibit the divine rule that marks theocracies.”
“I encourage the other members of the Texas State School Board to publically stand up for keeping the social studies curriculum historically accurate and to reject promoting one religion over another,” Speckhardt concluded.
Last week the American Humanist Association launched a petition asking the Texas State School Board to maintain historical accuracy in the Texas social studies curriculum. It also highlights the importance of the Texas curriculum to parents and students across the country because text books are often written to meet Texas guidelines due to the fact that Texas has the second-largest school system. The petition has accumulated over 1,000 signers and is still growing quickly. (The petition can be found here: http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/318/t/9133/petition.jsp?petition_KEY=204)
The American Humanist Association (www.americanhumanist.org) advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941and headquartered in Washington, D.C., its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across the United States.
Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism, affirms our responsibility to lead ethical lives of value to self and humanity.
For more information contact:
Karen Frantz, communications and policy manager
American Humanist Association