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10.03.25 - Texas State Board of Education Rules in Favor of Revising U.S. Constitutional History in its Public School Textbooks
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After several months of debate, the Texas State Board of Education has chosen to remove any mention of Thomas Jefferson, Roger Williams, and the constitutional separation of church and state, and proclaims that the United States is a Christian nation, legally and constitutionally, in violation of numerous U.S. Supreme Court rulings and of the historical record itself regarding the nation's founding!
On a partisan vote of 10-to-5 the State Board went as far to reject the minimum proposed requirement that Texas students be at least taught the reasons behind the prohibition of a state religion in the Bill of Rights.
The Northwest Religious Liberty Association (NRLA), disagrees with this deplorable decision and urges the Texas School Book Publishing Department to refuse to print these changes into Texas' schoolbooks.
Other than Peter Marshall, who is not a qualified expert on our country's constitutional founding, the most influential individual that was asked to advise the board was so-called constitutional founding expert David Barton of WallBuilders, Inc. The following are a list of so-called qualifications, or lack of qualifications, that Barton notoriously holds:
- Despite his many simplistic video histories, Barton lacks any formal academic training that would qualify him as an “expert” in the social sciences, let alone America's constitutional founding period. In fact, his bachelor’s degree is in religious education. That’s it.
- Like many non-experts, he claims that the constitutional principle of the separation of church and state—which is contained in the very wording of the First Amendment, and extrapolated in numerous U.S. Supreme Court decisions—is a “myth.”
- He has argued that our nation’s laws and public policies should be based on the Bible and the Bible alone. In fact, he has specifically argued that taxation and labor laws are unbiblical and thereby unconstitutional. Like Christian Reconstructionists, his standard for interpreting the Constitution is the Bible and the Bible alone.
- Groups such as Texas Baptists Committed, the Baptist Joint Committee, and some Southern Baptists, have sharply criticized Barton’s interpretations of the Constitution and history.
- Barton also acknowledges having used in his publications and speeches nearly a dozen quotes he has attributed to the nation’s Founders even though he can’t identify any primary sources demonstrating that they really said them.
- In 1991 Barton spoke at events hosted by groups tied to white supremacists. He later said he hadn’t known the groups were “part of a Nazi movement.” Sure!
Barton's Terribly Flawed HistoryBarton refuses to understand the vital distinction that while we are culturally, historically, and demographically a Christian nation, we are not a Christian nation legally or constitutionally and that is the way America's Constitutional Founders intended it. Historically speaking, few would declare that the new world was not founded largely by Protestant Christian colonists. Culturally the United States of America is far more ethnically and religiously diverse, but nevertheless remains very religious, with the predominant religious faith group being Christian. This has been made clear in numerous recent surveys: one by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and by Baylor University. In terms of population numbers, 77 percent of Americans profess to be Christian at one nominal or fundamental level or another, which is down from previous studies conducted in the year 2000.
What Barton does not want to accept is that legally and constitutionally the nation's constitutional founders intended a secular Constitution in order to foster and guarantee religious freedom for all and thus religious pluralism in this country.
Another distinction Barton purposefully and regularly fails to make is the distinction between America's colonial "Puritan Founding" and our nation's "Constitutional Founding." The "Constitutional Founders" ran pell-mell from the Puritan theocratic experiment, which included intolerance and persecution of people of faith they disagreed with.
Also, Barton frequently refers to two hundred court cases that supposedly affirm that we are a Christian nation; but what he doesn't tell you is that he loves to refer to these minority opinions in court cases while ignoring the majority opinions that demonstrate just the opposite.
Barton's purpose is clear: to rewrite our nation's history in the minds and hearts of the American people. It is, indeed, the seeds that are typically sown to lay the foundation for revolutions in any given country or region on the planet. This has been the most frequent method used throughout history. The Bolshevik Revolution began by Lenin in Russia during the early part of the twentieth century is a prime example.
The bottom line is that David Barton is one of the most unreliable individuals that the State Board of Education could have consulted. It's astonishing to think that a state education board relied on the advice of highly uneducated ideologues instead of U.S. constitutional historians and legal scholars. Surely Texas universities have accomplished scholars in the field who are more qualified than ideologues who share a narrow political agenda?
Judge for YourselfThe truth is that a few qualified academic experts did participate in the discussion, both at the formal hearing and in writing. One of them was noted Professor Derek H. Davis, former chairman and director of the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. Davis currently serves as the Dean of the College of Humanities at Mary Hardin-Baylor University, a Baptist affiliated university along with Baylor University, it's sister institution of learning. Davis is also the Dean of the Graduate School and Director of the Center of Religious Liberty at Mary Hardin-Baylor University. He has authored and edited seventeen books on religious liberty and America's Constitutional Founding and is recognized as one of America's leading scholars on church and state and church-state relations, both domestically and internationally.
His written testimony was published in the Houston Chronicle and is eloquently stated. Here it is for your review:
Submitted Testimony of
Dr. Derek H. Davis, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Belton, Texas (Baptist affiliated)
Dean, College of Humanities
Dean, Graduate School
Director, Center for Religious Liberty
Author/Editor of seventeen books on religious liberty and related themes.
I have read and heard some of the discussions regarding the revisions to the social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools. I submit this testimony because I am concerned that well-meaning persons, lacking adequate understanding of our Constitutional history, are seeking to persuade the Texas State Board of Education to violate the religious liberty of Texas public school students by inclusion of inappropriate material in the Texas social studies curriculum.
I think it’s very good to include in public school social studies curriculum information about America’s religious history. An education without some understanding of the profound role of religion in our nation’s history and its contributions to our nation’s success is an incomplete education, and our courts have often said as much. What violates the Constitution is presenting material that either prefers Christianity over other faiths or depicts the United States as a Christian nation in some legal sense. Some of the proposals suggested by members of the State Board of Education and their appointees to curriculum panels commit both violations, and therefore infringe the religious liberty of public school students across Texas.
Religious liberty stands as one of our nation’s bedrock principles. Yet it seems always under siege by those who fail to appreciate the astute thinking of the founding fathers that caused them to write into the Constitution the principle that guarantees religious liberty: the separation of church and state. This distinctly American value continues to set our nation apart from those embroiled in religious conflict in the rest of the world.
These critics, mostly Christians, customarily decry the modern secularization of our society. Whether secularization is actually happening is a debatable point, but they assume it is happening and frequently go a step further to place the blame for this development on the separation of church and state, which they claim is hostile to the founders’ intentions. This charge is patently false. Ironically, these critics seem utterly unaware that the separation of church and state is ultimately founded on a theological basis. When the founders, generally men of profound faith, wrote in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal,” they had in mind that people are essentially equal in that they are created in the image of God and are “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights,” including the freedom to believe and practice one’s religion. They believed that the imago Dei stamped upon every person is the basis of the dignity and worth of that person. They understood that one’s choices in the realm of religion must be made freely; otherwise one’s dignity and worth before God are maligned.
Scholars agree that the Free Exercise Clause was the founders’ way of encouraging every person to find his or her own way in religion; the Establishment Clause was their way of ensuring that government (and arms of the government such as public schools) would not interfere with that process, even by encouraging or promoting the very idea of faith. The founders agreed with what Rhode Island founder Roger Williams wrote in the 17th century: it is wrong for the civil power to encourage a person to “this or that judgment or opinion of faith” or “this or that practice in religion.” People must believe for themselves, otherwise the divine initiative is compromised and government has violated the sacredness of those whom it is called to serve. Human government should not, the founders believed, proselytize or be an advocate for any faith whatsoever. The great 19th-century Baptist preacher John Leland would agree: “Religion is a concern between God and the soul with which no human authority can intermeddle.” Efforts to undermine these basic principles do damage to our national heritage and to the values of fairness and religious equality that we should be trying to teach our children.
These fundamental principles do not mean that there is no public role for religion. America has a rich tradition of acknowledging the sovereignty of God over the nation by adopting generic language that respects as many Americans’ faith as possible. For example, the national motto, “In God We Trust,” is a broad term that most, though certainly not all, Americans support. Likewise, most public school children regularly acknowledge that we are “one nation under God” when they recite daily the Pledge of Allegiance. Such practices invoke God’s protection over our nation and its people and are assurances against carrying the separation principle too far.
Nevertheless, the basic commitment to separating church and state remains intact. Absent this guarantee, religious liberty is hollow and trivial. The separation of church and state, which frees religion to be robust and voluntary, is hardly the source of our nation’s problems; in fact, it is the primary reason that religion in America, and foremost Christianity, has flourished for all of our history. Religion is vibrant in America precisely because of the separation of church and state, not in spite of it. It is my hope that we will not in the present hour and in these curriculum standards retreat from the founders’ intentions to make religion a key thread in our national tapestry while protecting the diverse faiths of all Americans.
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