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"Issues and Action in Education"

Teaching Religion in Public Schools

by Allen Quist

 An e-letter produced by EdWatch, a nonprofit organization. 

September 2, 2007

   In December of 2006, the U.S. Department of Education sent guidelines to all public schools in our country explaining that they could now teach about religion in their classes. This should not be surprising since the federal curriculum standards for civics, history and geography for more than a decade have been calling for teaching religion in public schools
   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. [See Establishing a Global Spirituality]

   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.
   A “teaching religion in public schools” seminar held this past July, 16-20, at Stockton, California, is a case in point. This seminar 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 funded by a grant from the U. S. Department of Education and was conducted by the California Three Rs Project.)
   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 called “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.  Using this postmodern approach to historical research, real history disappears -­ 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 Fedei (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 definition of “predestination,” 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 Christ? Once again, facts and real history are not an issue for those committed to transformational education.
   By distorting the history of the Reformation, the seminar has also distorted the history of the United States. The foundational principles of the United States cannot be understood without recognition of the profound influence of Christianity and the Reformation on these principles. Under the guise of teaching “Religion in American History,” the seminar indoctrinates our children with a false view of Christianity and a false view of the United States. 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, then followed by a description of Christian missions in the new world which compares these missions to Nazi-style concentrations 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:

   The speaker defined “punishment” as follows:  
        Various punishments:

   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. 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 its 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 a professor of American Government at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, Minnesota and a widely recognized writer and speaker. He is author of five books, the most recent being America’s Schools: The Battleground for Freedom. Quist authored the best-selling book, FedEd: The New Federal Curriculum and How It's Enforced, which is in its 3rd printing. He served three terms in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1983 to 1988. He played an influential role in legalizing home schools in Minnesota. In 1994 he was the Republican endorsed candidate for Minnesota Governor, and was one of seven delegates elected from Minnesota to the White House Conference on Families in 1980.

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