Texas Social Studies Standards Question Church-State Separation

Article excerpt

The Texas State Board of Education has given final approval to a new set of social studies standards that cast doubt on the validity of separation of church and state.

The board voted 9-5 May 21 to approve the standards. One of the standards will require Texas students to "examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America and guaranteed it free exercise by saying that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, and compare and contrast this to the phrase 'separation of church and state.'"

Prior to the vote, the board listened to member Cynthia Dunbar offer an invocation about her view of America and its history.

"I believe no one can read the history of our country without realizing that the Good Book and the spirit of the savior have from the beginning been our guiding geniuses," Dunbar said. "Whether we look to the first charter of Virginia, or the charter of New England ... the same objective is present - a Christian land governed by Christian principles."

She continued, "I believe the entire Bill of Rights came into being because of the knowledge our forefathers had of the Bible and their belief in it. I like to believe we are living today in the spirit of the Christian religion. I like also to believe that as long as we do so, no great harm can come to our country."

Dunbar, who will leave the board next year, is the author of One Nation Under God, in which she argues the Founders created "an emphatically Christian government" and that the government should be guided by a "Biblical litmus test." A law graduate of TV preacher Pat Robertson's Regent University, she considers the public school system to be a "subtly deceptive tool of perversion."

Texas' troubles began last year when the fundamentalist-dominated board asked David Barton, a Texas-based Religious Right "Christian nation" propagandist, to help draft new standards. The right-wing faction also appointed Massachusetts minister Peter Marshall, who holds similar views, to the review committee along with American University professor Daniel Dreisbach, who has written widely on Thomas Jefferson's wall of separation, calling it "mythical. …