The Freedom From Religion Foundation, on behalf of its Florida membership, is asking the Florida Department of Education to remove miseducation about the Founders and Framers from Florida’s new, recently implemented civics standards.
Florida parents, and many teachers, have raised concerns that children will be indoctrinated in Christian nationalism as part of Governor DeSantis’ new “Civil Literacy Excellence Initiative.” Christian nationalism relies on the mythological founding of the United States as a “Christian nation,” singled out for God’s providence in order to fulfill God’s purposes on Earth. Christian nationalism demands a privileged place for Christianity in public life, buttressed by the active support of government at all levels.”
As part of the first round of workshops implementing the initiative, instructors reportedly instructed Broward County teachers that “the nation’s Founders did not desire a strict separation of state and church, downplayed the role the colonies and later the United States had in the history of slavery in America and pushed a judicial theory, favored by legal conservatives like DeSantis, that requires people to interpret the Constitution as the framers intended it, not as a living, evolving document. . .”
The state’s deceitful workshops were reportedly developed with the help of the Bill of Rights Institute, founded by Charles Koch, and Hillsdale College, a pervasively sectarian private Christian institution, which was founded “out of gratitude to God ‘for the inestimable blessings resulting from the prevalence of civil and religious liberty and intelligent piety in the land.’”
The Miami Herald noted that “the founding fathers’ intent and the ‘misconceptions’ about their thinking were a main theme of the training:”
One slide underscored that the “Founders expected religion to be promoted because they believed it to be essential to civic virtue.” Without virtue, another slide noted, citizens become “licentious” and become subject to tyranny. Another slide highlights three U.S. Supreme Court cases to show when the “Founders’ original intent began to change.” That included the 1962 landmark case that found school-sponsored prayer violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment, which Judd said trainers viewed as unjust. At one point, the trainers equated it to the 1892 U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation under the “separate but equal” doctrine. “Ending school prayer was compared to upholding segregation,” Judd said. In other words, he said, trainers called both those rulings unjust.
Another teacher noted that during breakout sessions, the state’s presenters repeatedly mentioned the influence Jesus Christ and the Bible have on the country’s foundation: “There was this Christian nationalism philosophy that was just baked into everything that was there.”
Public schools have a duty to ensure that instructional materials and lessons do not promote a particular religious viewpoint, FFRF says.
Teaching students false, biased information about American history particularly stigmatizes and alienates nonreligious students. About a third of U.S. teens (32 percent) say they are religiously unaffiliated, including 6 percent who describe themselves as atheists, 4 percent who are agnostics and 23 percent who say their religion is “nothing in particular.”
“State education exists to cultivate the minds of young students and promote independent thinking, in short, to educate, not to indoctrinate,” FFRF Co-Presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker write to Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr. “The Florida Department of Education is a public entity and must make its decisions based on truth, accuracy, and expertise, not on political or religious ideology.”
Read FFRF’s letter here
FFRF is a national nonprofit organization with more than 37,000 members across the country, including more than 1,800 members and a local chapter in Florida, the Central Florida Freethought Community. FFRF protects the constitutional separation between state and church and educates about nontheism.