26 May 2011

Hundreds of fundamentalist religious schools in US use public funds to indoctrinate students with anti-science and bigotry

AlterNet    -    May 23, 2011

The 'Christian' Dogma Pushed by Religious Schools That Are Supported by Your Tax Dollars

By Rachel Tabachnick, AlterNet

Are your state’s tax dollars funding the teaching of religious supremacism and bigotry? What about creationism? The answer is undoubtedly yes, if you live in a state with a voucher or corporate tax credit program funding “school choice."

Religious schools across the nation are receiving public funds through voucher and corporate tax credit programs. Many hundreds, if not thousands, of these schools use Protestant fundamentalist textbooks that teach not only creationism, but also a religious supremacist worldview. They offer a shocking spin on politics, history and human rights.

In 12 states and the District of Columbia, almost 200,000 students attend private schools with at least part of their tuition paid with public funds. The money is taken from public school budgets to fund vouchers or by diverting state tax revenues to tuition grants through corporate tax credit programs. An interconnected group of non-profits and political action committees, led by the wealthy right-wing school privatization advocate Betsy DeVos and heavily funded by a few mega-donors, is working to expand these programs across the nation. The DeVos-led American Federation for Children hosted Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Michelle Rhee at a national policy summit earlier in May.

Take a look at what growing numbers of students are being taught with taxpayer funding. The textbook quotes are followed by a description of the Florida tax credit program, the largest of its kind in the country.

The Textbooks

In 2003, Dr. Frances Paterson, a specialist in education law, published Democracy and Intolerance: Christian School Curricula, School Choice, and Public Policy, summarizing her extensive study of the curricula of the three most widely used Protestant fundamentalist textbook publishers in the nation: A Beka Book, Pensacola, Florida; Bob Jones University Publishing, Greenville South Carolina; and Accelerated Christian Education, Lewisville, Texas.

Her research included surveys in Florida, including one of private schools receiving public funding in the Orlando area. Of those that responded, 52 percent used A Beka textbooks, 24 percent used Bob Jones and 15 percent used ACE. A Beka publishers reported that about 9,000 schools nationwide purchase its textbooks.

In 2003, the Palm Beach Post conducted its own survey of Florida’s voucher schools, and of the religious schools that responded, 43 percent used either A Beka or Bob Jones curriculum. The percentages may be higher in Florida than some other states; however, these three curricula series are used by thousands of private schools across the country.

Unsurprisingly, the textbooks are fiercely anti-abortion and virulently anti-gay, similar to the ideology of Religious Right organizations (heavily funded by Betsy DeVos and family) that have been labeled hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. A Bob Jones current events text argues against legal protection for gays, stating, “These people have no more claims to special rights than child molesters or rapists.” The text uses an often-repeated phrase that homosexuals and abortion-rights supporters are “simply calling evil good.”

They also teach a radical laissez-faire capitalism. Government safety nets, regulation, minimum wage and progressive taxes are described as contrary to the Bible. Many of these textbooks were first published in the 1980s, evidence that the merging of Religious Right ideology with extreme free-market economics predates the Tea Party movement by many years.

The textbooks exhibit hostility toward other religions, including Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, and traditional African and Native American religions, and other Christians are also targeted, including non-evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics.

All three series include biblical creationism in their science curriculum.

The following textbook quotes about social issues, science, history, government, economics, and religion, are taken from Dr. Paterson’s documentation or directly from my own collection of textbooks from the three publishers.

Social Issues

The term liberal is associated throughout all three series with moral decline. For example, under the subtitle “A Liberal Supreme Court,” an A Beka eighth-grade text reads, “The Supreme Court made several liberal decisions in the 1970s, indicating the moral decline of the nation as a whole.” Another A Beka text states, “Modern liberalism has had many tragic consequences -- war, tyranny, and despair -- for mankind.”

An A Beka government text describes Roe v. Wade, “Ignoring 3,500 years of Judeo-Christian civilization, religion, morality, and law, the Burger Court held that an unborn child was not a living person but rather the 'property' of the mother (much like slaves were considered property in the 1857 case of Dred Scott v. Sandford).”

Both Roe v. Wade and Brown v. Board of Education are described as social activism by the Supreme Court. The Bob Jones high school civic texts states, “While the end was a noble one -- ending discrimination in schools -- the means were troublesome.” The text continues, “liberals were not willing to wait for a political solution.”

History and Government

These texts are less militantly Christian nationalists than some other homeschooling and private school textbooks, such as the popular America’s Providential History. Nevertheless they present a view of the nation’s history and government that closely hews to that of the Religious Right.

The A Beka civics text states, “God’s original purpose for government was to punish the evil and reward the good.” The same text describes the ideal form of government. “All governments are ordained by God, but none compare to government by God, theocracy.”

Predating today’s “tenther” movement, the texts consistently accuse the federal government of exceeding its constitutional authority as described in the 10th Amendment and taking powers that belong to the states. The 14th Amendment, passed during Reconstruction to give citizenship to African Americans, is criticized as taking away state’s rights.

Concerning slavery in America, a Bob Jones high school text states, “To help them endure the difficulties of slavery, God gave Christian slaves the ability to combine the African heritage of song with the dignity of Christian praise. Through the Negro spiritual, the slaves developed the patience to wait on the Lord and discovered that the truest freedom is from the bondage of sin.”

In an A Beka high school history text, American education is described in glowing terms until the 1920s, when damaging influences of liberalism began to sweep the nation. Under the heading “Liberalism in American Life” these influences are described as the social gospel, socialism, secular psychology, progressive education, and secular humanism. The “most destructive idea to sweep the nation in the 20th century was Charles Darwin’s doctrine of evolution,” according to the text.

Under the subtitle “Socialist Propaganda” the Great Depression is described as having been exaggerated so that Franklin Delano Roosevelt could pass New Deal legislation. The text states, “Perhaps the best known work of propaganda to come from the Depression was John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. [...] Other forms of propaganda included rumors of mortgage foreclosures, mass evictions, and hunger riots and exaggerated statistics representing the number of unemployed and homeless people in America.”

Ironically, the same A Beka text claims the New Deal prolonged the Depression. The purpose of the Taft-Hartley Act, which began to unravel New Deal legislation, is described as “to remove certain labor abuses and to curb the growing power of labor unions over individuals and employers.”

Commentary on the Vietnam War states that it divided the country into the “hawks who supported the fight against Communism, and doves, who were soft on Communism.”

Throughout these texts the tone of despair changes as President Ronald Reagan’s presidency is celebrated. A fourth-grade A Beka text announces the administration of Ronald Reagan under the heading “A Return to Patriotism and Family Values.”

Even after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the textbooks continue to promote fears of communism invading American life. An A Beka text states, “It is no wonder that Satan hates the family and has hurled his venom against it in the form of Communism.” The same text claims “history shows socialism gradually opens the door to Communism.” The terms socialist and socialism are used repeatedly in references to Democratic presidents.

The A Beka high school text describes President Bill Clinton’s administration. “The First Lady announced that she would personally lead the effort to implement a plan for socialized medicine in the United States. Bill Clinton’s running mate, Al Gore, a senator from Tennessee known for his radical environmentalism, became the new Vice President.”


These textbooks provide a window into a worldview that has recently impacted the political scene -- the merger of social conservatism with radical free market ideology.

Global warming is presented as a theory that is “simply not supported by scientific evidence,” and is supposedly promoted by environmentalists for destructive reasons, according to the A Beka economics text. ““Global environmentalists have said and written enough to leave no doubt that their goal is to destroy the prosperous economies of the world’s richest nations.”

In the same text a graphic of Bruegel’s famous painting of the biblical Tower of Babel is followed by a presentation of globalism in conspiratorial “one-world government” terms. This chapter on globalism describes the forces behind a one-world government as the United Nations, European Union, trade agreements (because they take away sovereignty), peace organizations and environmentalists.

A sidebar in the chapter on globalism explains that many Christians believe that that this “drive toward a one-world government fits in with prophecies” about the Antichrist and the end times. “But instead of this world unification ushering in an age of prosperity and peace, as most globalists believe it will, it will be a time of unimaginable human suffering as recorded in God’s Word. The Anti-christ will tightly regulate who may buy and sell.”

The authorship of this text is credited to the late Russell Kirk, an economist awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Ronald Reagan. The edition from which I took the above quotes was published after Kirk’s death, but still lists him as author.

The text includes lessons in the form of fictional accounts of companies. For example, the fictitious Gray Iron Fabricating is described as failing due to the National Labor Relations Board, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and lawsuits: one brought by the widow of a man electrocuted on the job (he failed to follow safety instructions), and a second by a female junior executive who was passed over for a promotion in favor of a man. This section of the text is followed by a cartoon and the story of “The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs” -- implying that government and greedy workers are destroying businesses.

Sweden and Canada are portrayed as “unwittingly snared in the command policies of socialism.” Based on the text, a reader might conclude that these nations are failed states.


The A Beka Web site advertises its fifth-grade text, Observing God’s World, as, “This teachable, readable, and memorable book presents the universe as the direct creation of God and refutes the idea of man-made evolution.” A section on the origin of the universe retells the Genesis story of creation and states, “Throughout history there have been people, even scientists, who have thought up their own stories of how things came to be.”

A quiz in the teacher’s guide for the A Beka eighth-grade text Matter and Motion asks, “Why did superstition take the place of science during the Middle Ages?” The answer key tells us, “People did not have the Bible to guide them in their beliefs. Many looked back to the false ideas of Aristotle.” The next question is, “Why did modern science begin so suddenly in the 1500s?” The answer given is, “As people returned to the authority of the Scriptures during the Protestant Reformation (1517), they started learning the truth about God and His creation.”

A three-page section in this A Beka text leads with a headline “Two Faiths: Creation and Evolution” and states, “Creation, not evolution, is based on a reasonable faith.” A Bob Jones science text includes a chapter titled “Biblical Creationism,” claiming that evolution cannot be a part of science, since it can not be observed and must be accepted by faith.

The same Bob Jones text explains, “From a Christian standpoint, there are only two worldviews from which to choose -- a Christian worldview or a non-Christian worldview. The most important beliefs in a Christian worldview are the beliefs that the Bible is the Word of God and the only completely reliable thing in this world.”

The text suggests that sedimentary fossils were formed in Noah’s flood. One and a half pages are dedicated to the possibility that the Bible refers to dinosaurs and closes with the warning, “Bible-believing Christians cannot accept any evolutionary interpretation. Dinosaurs and humans were definitely on the earth at the same time and may have even lived side by side within the past few thousand years.”

Religion and Ethnicity

Paterson described the texts as “having an arrogance and hostility toward non-Western religions that is truly breathtaking.”

An A Beka grammar school text states that traditional African religions are “false religious beliefs” from the Egyptian descendants of the biblical figure Ham. A fifth-grade text tells a narrative of a great chief who was a Christian convert, although his subjects were “ruled by witchcraft,” and drank corn beer that made them “lazy and wicked.” The claims of witchcraft are ironic given the fact that many of the schools using these textbooks are associated with churches that have joined the current wave of obsession with witchcraft and expelling demons.

All three publishers stress the need for missionary work and reject religious pluralism. Non-Christians are described as living in “spiritual darkness,” which is credited as the source of poverty and societal ills.

The teacher’s edition of a A Beka geography text describes “Modern Africa’s Needs” as follows. “Africa is a continent with many needs. It is still in need of the gospel. Many people have gone there as missionaries but the continent is so vast, and spirit worship and the Muslim religion so strong, that only a small percentage of Africans claim to be Christians. [...] Only about ten percent of Africans can read and write. In some areas the mission schools have been shut down by Communists who have taken over the government....”

These statements are not factual and were not in 2004, when this text was published.

One of the more shameful episodes in American history, the Cherokee Trail of Tears, is apparently mitigated by the fact that “God used the Trail of Tears to bring many Indians to Christ,” according to an A Beka text.

Paterson points out that several textbooks claim that Chinese ideographs indicate that the Chinese people once had access to “biblical truth” but later embraced false religions including Confucianism. I’ve seen this curious and factually flawed argument in a number of other sources that claim, for example, that the Chinese character for boat indicates that ancient Chinese knew of the Noah story.

Islam is also portrayed as a false religion and Hinduism is described as “devastating to India’s history.” Followers of Shintoism are described as being “very similar to the Jewish Pharisees whom Jesus condemned for putting outward cleanliness above inward purity.”

Although the texts repeatedly use the term “Judeo-Christian,” Jews are also considered to be in need of conversion. An ACE text states, “Not realizing that he is already come, Orthodox Jews continue to look for their Messiah. As the end time prophesied in the Bible draws near, many Jews are now turning to Jesus Christ and accepting him as Messiah.”

Non-evangelical and non-fundamentalist Protestant denominations are described as liberal, a dirty word in these texts. Paterson dedicates an entire chapter of her book to examples of anti-Roman Catholic bias, which is taught to students beginning around the fifth grade. Catholicism is described with terms such as "distorted," "false," and "error." A Bob Jones high school text states, “The seed of error that took root during the fourth and fifth centuries blossomed into the Roman Catholic Church -- a perversion of biblical Christianity.”

An A Beka text reads, "The doctrines and practices of the Roman church had digressed so far from Scripture that the church was compelled to keep its members from reading the Bible and discovering the truth." The A Beka text also repeatedly uses the term Romanism, which has pejorative connotations and has been used as a slur against Catholics for generations. It is still used by apocalyptic televangelists, like John Hagee, claiming that “Romanism” is the biblical “Whore of Babylon” in his descriptions of the destruction of Rome and the Catholic Church in the end times.

In a perverse irony, the pro-voucher proponents working to remove the clauses in state constitutions that prevent public funding of religious schools, claim that this must be done because these “no aid” clauses, also known as Blaine Amendments, are a vestige of historic anti-Catholicism.


The worldview of these textbook publishers impact areas you might not suspect, including choosing phonics over whole language reading instruction and rejecting the teaching of set theory in mathematics, both on religious grounds. The A Beka publishers advertise the math curriculum as, “A Beka Book provides attractive, legible, workable traditional mathematics texts that are not burdened with modern theories such as set theory.”

Florida’s Corporate Tax Credit Program: Do They Know What They're Funding?

Florida has the largest “school choice” program in the country, followed by Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Ohio. Over 54,000 tuition recipients are enrolled in private schools in Florida, with the majority of these students in a corporate tax credit program that allows businesses to divert their taxes, dollar for dollar, up to 75 percent of taxes owed to the state.

Florida currently has a voucher program limited to special-needs students, since the state’s Supreme Court struck down a more expansive program in 2006. The Florida House and Senate have approved a ballot initiative for the 2012 election to try to remove the “no aid” clause in the state’s constitution that would open the door to Gov. Rick Scott’s vouchers-for-all scheme.

Florida’s corporate tax credit program disbursed the full amount allowed last year -- $140 million dollars for tuition to students in 1,092 schools and has a cap of $175 million for 2011. These funds are handed over to private non-profits for distribution, with the vast majority since 2002 disbursed through Step Up for Students, also a recipient of funding from the DeVos family foundations.

This is one of several names used by the Florida School Choice Fund, Inc. a 501(c)(3) headed by John Kirtley, a venture capitalist who is also vice chairman of the Betsy DeVos-led American Federation for Children and a director of the James Madison Institute, one of many right-wing think tanks that promote privatization of public education. (The institute’s founding vice chairman, J. Stanley Marshall, has signed a proclamation calling for the end of public education.)

As of February 2011, 83.8 percent of the students in the Florida tax credit program were attending religious schools, approximately the same rate as Milwaukee’s voucher program. However, unlike Milwaukee, hundreds of the Florida schools fall into the category of right-wing evangelical or fundamentalist, with many using A Beka, Bob Jones, or ACE curriculum.

The Step Up For Students reports describe the typical student in the tax credit program as a minority from a one-parent home. Currently 35.6 percent are African American and 27.5 percent are Hispanic. The organization's glossy reports tout the improved opportunities of the students provided with tuition grants to private schools.

The Florida tax credit program is voluntarily supported by corporations including AT &T, Burger King, CVS, Lowe’s, Marriott, Sysco Food Services, and others, described in the Step Up For Students annual reports as “receiving a high rate of return on their investments.” Do these corporation know what they are supporting? The Step Up For Students reports and other pro-privatization propaganda openly report the participating private school’s use of the curricula series quoted in this article, without revealing what that means.

The Step Up For Students reports also fail to include the fact that some American universities refuse to accept high school credit for courses taught from several textbooks quoted in this article. University of California specifically cited several A Beka and Bob Jones textbooks and, although challenged in court, won the case.

Some of the glowing testimonies in the Step Up for Students annual report include this 2008 description of Bible Truth Ministries Academy. “Students are divided into multi-grade learning groups and taught with the Accelerated Christian Education curriculum, which is self-paced and has allowed some of the students to advance well beyond their grade level.”

The 2007 annual report features Esprit De Corps Center for Learning in Jacksonville. Next to a photo of smiling African American children, smartly attired in uniforms and berets, the curriculum is touted. “Using an A Beka curriculum designed to challenge students to reach their full potential, the school offers outstanding academic programs that provide its students with the skills and knowledge to become active, productive members of society. [...] EDC has partnered with Step Up For Students since its inception.”

When the Palm Beach Post conducted its survey in 2003, the Potter’s House Christian Academy was one of the major recipients of voucher funding and reported using both the A Beka and Bob Jones curriculum series. The school is affiliated with the politically influential Jacksonville mega-church, the Potter’s House Christian Fellowship, led by Bishop Vaughan McLaughlin.

In February 2005, an estimated 2200 people attended a rally at the church in support of Step Up For Students, led by Governor Jeb Bush and the state’s attorney general at that time, Charlie Crist. This June, the Potter’s House will be a host of the Global Day of Prayer, led by an international Charismatic network, which includes Apostle Ed Silvoso, Bishop McLaughin’s spiritual mentor. This network teaches that Christians must take control or “dominion” over government and society. (Silvoso is the brother-in-law of evangelist Luis Palau, whose ministry has received at least $3.5 million from the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation.)

This tax credit program money could have been used to improve Florida’s urban public schools, but that would not serve the purpose of indoctrinating the largely minority recipients of the tuition grants with the right-wing religious worldview found in these textbooks. As Frances Paterson states in her research, Americans absolutely have the right to send their children to schools that use these fundamentalist curricula. But she adds, “The public policy makers can and should ask whether the alternative system of Christian education for which they seek public approval and support is ideologically driven in ways that run contrary to the best interests of a diverse, democratic society.”

This article was found at:


Radical Christian extremists aim to undermine public education by targeting high school kids for indoctrination into fundamentalist worldview

Louisiana student fighting legislation allowing creationism in science classes challenges deluded congresswoman to debate

Creationists weaken U.S. education system, only a quarter of high school students adequately taught evolutionary biology

Teaching evolution in science classrooms under attack in the US and UK by anti-science creationists

Christian dominionists target children between 4 and 14 as the most vulnerable to spiritual manipulation

Arkansas politician wants public schools to indoctrinate students with literal interpretation of the Bible

Virginia school board takes down 10 Commandments posters to avoid lawsuit, students walk out in protest

Texas school board members injected their personal religious beliefs into social studies curriculum

Reactionary Christian fundamentalists take over Texas school board, rewrite history books to indoctrinate America's children

Nebraska education administrators get mixed messages from lawyers on legality of promoting religion in schools

Third Wave 'Spiritual Warfare' movement indoctrinating young children to do battle for the Lord

Child Evangelism Fellowship complains it is banned from converting children in public housing project

Federal Court of Appeal asked to stop California college proselytizing and imposing religion on students

Advocacy group battles illegal Christian fundamentalist proselytizing in U.S. public schools

Fundamentalist Christian 'punk' band uses deception to evangelize and indoctrinate in U.S. schools

Christian fundamentalist boot-camp for kids indoctrinates them to fight 'bloody' religious war

'Arming' for Armageddon: Militant Joel's Army Followers Seek Theocracy

Christian Reconstructionists Are Trying to Take Dominion in America

Australian Anglican bishop denies evangelical group is using school chaplain program to convert children to Christianity

Australian evangelical group aims to convert children through government funded school religious programs

Vote-seeking Australian government opts to spend $437 million on school chaplains instead of qualified counsellors

Canadian Supreme Court hears case pitting religious freedom of parents against religious freedom of their children

Battle over ethics course in Quebec schools goes to court - Catholic high school wants exemption

Quebec bans teaching a belief, a dogma or the practice of a specific religion in government subsidized daycares

Some Canadian provinces discriminate against non-Catholics and unbelievers by publicly funding Catholic schools

The Alberta town where all public schools force Catholic dogma on non-Catholic students

Dublin Archbishop says Irish church not indoctrinating enough children, secular society advancing

Church of England's proselytising plans will target children for recruitment and indoctrination

Irish children subjected to religious dogma in order to get an education in school system dominated by Catholic church

Atheist Ireland says children's right to be exempt from religious class a theoretical illusion

Parental rights vs children's rights: debating the role of religious institutions in Irish education system

German teen expelled from government funded Catholic school after exercising her human right to religious freedom

UK theology think tank says it is wrong to exclude God from classroom, superstition and reason should be equal partners

Secularists campaign to change UK law that makes religious assemblies in schools compulsory, government and church resist

Groups call on British government to replace compulsory collective worship in schools with inclusive assemblies

U.K. school inspectors report that Christian theology and non-religious beliefs not being adequately taught in compulsory religious education classes

European Court of Human Rights says crucifix not a symbol of indoctrination, reverses ban in Italian public schools

European Court of Human Rights rules crucifixes in Italian schools violates children's religious freedom to believe or not


  1. Terrifying and enlightening. Thanks for making this known.

  2. Can Teachers Criticize Creationism in Class?


    Should a teacher be sued for describing creationism as "superstitious nonsense"?

    This question involves a lawsuit against California history teacher James Corbett. In 2007, a former student sued Corbett for a pattern of hostility "toward religion and favoring irreligion over religion." The student produced secret recordings of Corbett as evidence.

    In 2009, a judge considered Corbett's statements and found only one -- that creationism is "superstitious nonsense" -- to be an "improper disapproval of religion in violation of the Establishment Clause," and therefore an infringement of the student's rights. To the amazement of educators and scientists across the country, the court ruled against Corbett and found this one statement in class to have been unconstitutional.

    One issue raised by this case is how far educators should modify class content to anticipate potential offense to the faith of their students. In a public school classroom filled with students from a variety of religions and backgrounds, there is a good chance of offending someone in some way. If teachers are at risk of being sued every time they make a factual statement, it may have a chilling effect: "Teachers can avoid [risk] by not talking about these issues at all," according to UC Irvine law professor Rachel Moran.

    Is this the kind of education we want? Let's explore the implications of this with some hypotheticals:


    While schools must respect the religious rights of all students, teachers such as James Corbett should not be penalized for presenting relevant classroom information, even if the way that information is conveyed might hurt some feelings. Suing in such a case is grossly out of proportion to the alleged offense.

    Indeed, on August 19, 2011, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the decision against Corbett. One can only hope that in the future teachers will be feel free to focus on the difficult and important task of teaching, rather than worrying that their students are going to sue them.

    [read the full article at the link above]

  3. Gov. Haslam allows evolution bill to become law

    by Chas Sisk, The Tennessean April 10, 2012

    A bill that encourages classroom debate over evolution will become law in Tennessee, despite a veto campaign mounted by scientists and civil libertarians who say it will reopen a decades-old controversy over teaching creationism to the state’s schoolchildren.

    Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday that he will allow House Bill 368/Senate Bill 893 to become law without his signature, a symbolic move that signals his opposition but allows the measure to be added to the state code.

    The bill will create confusion over the state’s science curriculum, Haslam said. But he also acknowledged that he lacks the votes to prevent the measure from becoming state law.

    “The bill received strong bipartisan support, passing the House and Senate by a three-to-one margin,” he said, “but good legislation should bring clarity and not confusion. My concern is that this bill has not met this objective.”

    The decision followed criticism of the bill from national organizations and local scientists, who said it is a cover for reintroducing creationism in Tennessee schools. They linked the measure to the 1925 Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tenn., in which a schoolteacher was tried for breaking a state law then on the books that banned the teaching of evolution.

    “It was presented as giving more flexibility to teachers to discuss controversies, but really this has always been about evolution,” said Barry Lynn, executive director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “This has always been a way for teachers to interject their religious viewpoints if they contradict evolution.”

    Unlike the law used to try John Scopes, a biology teacher who flouted the state’s ban on evolution nearly 90 years ago, the current bill does not require teaching any view of creation.

    Instead, it encourages students to question accepted scientific theories — listing as examples evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming and cloning — and it protects teachers from punishment if they teach creationism. Proponents say it will encourage critical thinking and give teachers license to discuss the holes in scientific theories if they choose to do so.

    But the bill has drawn national attention.

    Eight Tennessee members of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, including a Vanderbilt University Nobel laureate, signed a letter urging lawmakers to vote it down, saying it would hurt students, the state’s reputation and its efforts to recruit science companies. The National Center for Science Education said it would allow teachers to introduce any idea they want into the science curriculum, religious or not.

    continued in next comment...

  4. continued from previous comment:

    More than 3,000 Tennesseans signed a petition delivered to Haslam last week urging him to veto the measure. Larisa DeSantis, the Vanderbilt scientist who started the petition drive, said Haslam’s decision not to veto the measure was a disappointment.

    “It doesn’t solve any problems; it only creates problems,” DeSantis said. “It is going to bring political controversy into the classroom.”

    First for Haslam

    The bill is the first that Haslam has let become law without his signature. Previous governors have used the technique to distance themselves from bills they disagree with, when it has been apparent that they could not win an override vote.

    The Tennessee Constitution says the legislature can override a veto with a simple majority. Bills become law automatically if the governor fails to sign them within 10 days.

    In his message, Haslam portrayed the bill as essentially meaningless.

    “I do not believe that this legislation changes the scientific standards that are taught in our schools or the curriculum that is used by our teachers,” Haslam said. “However, I also don’t believe that it accomplishes anything that isn’t already acceptable in our schools.”

    But the measure could trigger litigation, said Lynn.

    Americans United has frequently joined in lawsuits that challenge schools and districts for teaching evolution. He said it expects such a suit to be filed once districts try to implement the new law.

    “He should have been clear from the beginning what he wanted to do and this result could have been different,” Lynn said. “Now some small district is going to have to figure out what this statute means, and it will become a party to a very expensive lawsuit.”


  5. Why Are Christian Fundamentalist Parents Allowed to Deny Their Kids Basic Literacy?

    By failing to educate their kids, these parents potentially squander a child’s entire lifetime of future earnings and achievements.

    By M Dolon Hickmon, AlterNet January 23, 2014

    The appropriate balance between freedom and harm can be hard to strike, particularly when it comes to religious freedom. In an attempt to find this balance, religious conservatives have been granted exemptions from a wide range of civil rights laws and social obligations. In the last two decades, one of the exemptions they have secured in many states is the right to opt out of school attendance for their children.

    Led by a group called Home School Legal Defense Association, a network of institutions and activists have sprung up to advocate the rights of parents to educate their children—or not—as they please. Now the largest generation of home-schooled children are coming of age, and some are telling horror stories that suggest parent privilege may have gone too far.

    A recent testimonial posted at Homeschoolers Anonymous opens like this:

    It was not so much homeschooling that traumatized me as much as my mother’s mental illness. This was hidden by homeschooling, and the pain that damaged me came from the constant exposure to her psychiatric illness. I feel like someone roasted me over a fire, leaving me with burns to rest the remainder of my life, and I didn’t even know at the time what fire was.

    Nationally, the fight over homeschooling is heating up, with dramatic changes to existing laws set to be discussed in both Virginia and Utah during 2014.

    On January 8, Virginia statesman Tom Rust introduced House Joint Resolution 92, requesting the state’s Department of Education to review Virginia’s religious exemption to compulsory school attendance. Under current rules, Virginia parents who enroll as a home school must meet basic requirements, but by filing a separate religious exemption they can excuse themselves altogether from the duty to educate their children. Rust’s resolution asks the Department of Education to examine whether the exemption, which is the only one of its kind in the nation, violates a state constitutional provision that makes education a civil right.

    Meanwhile, as Virginians look to narrow their state’s exemption to ensure that all kids learn the basics, like how to read, Utah Senator Aaron Osmond has announced his plan to bring Virginia’s unfettered religious exemption to the state of Utah in the form of Senate Bill 39. Osmond told reporters that under his plan religious parents would still be subject to prosecution for educational neglect; however a review of Osmond’s proposal by the Coalition for Responsible Home Education concludes that since Utah defines educational neglect according to their state’s homeschooling requirements, parents who are exempt from those standards would also be immune from prosecution for educational neglect—even if they fail to educate their children at all.

    Religious groups have come out in support of the proposal in Utah and are also demanding that Virginia’s Joint Resolution 92 be retracted before the requested inquiry has even begun. These groups claim that the right to education is voluntary, like the right to vote, and that parents should have the freedom to decide whether to exercise this right on their children’s behalf.

    Heather Doney, executive director of the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, disagrees: “Parents have the right to direct their children’s education, but they should not have the right to deny them basic literacy.” Doney speaks from experience. As the eldest of 10 children in a devout homeschooling family, she was the only one who could read until her grandparents intervened and the children were allowed to attend school.

    continued below

  6. As with nutritional or sanitary neglect, lack of education can create lifelong hardships for those it affects. Ask any adult who has taken a college course while working full-time. Then imagine tackling years of remedial elementary, middle and high school courses while supporting yourself—and possibly a family—with a job so menial it doesn’t require a high school education. This outcome may not be the homeschool norm, but on websites like Homeschoolers Anonymous, homeschool alumni are reporting experiences of educational neglect in alarming numbers.

    Homeschooling families often portray themselves as a persecuted minority, but compared to homeschooled victims of neglect and abuse, responsible homeschooling parents are a formidable army. Represented by groups like the HSLDA, which has lawyers, publicists and media personalities at its command, these groups can easily paper the walls of a legislator’s office with letters listing their demands. But for young children who are having their futures stolen, these groups offer no solutions.

    Boiled down, most arguments for unregulated homeschooling amount to the same thing: “We must ignore the problems of abused homeschooled children to maintain the sovereignty of parents.”

    At the heart of this claim is religious homeschoolers’ insistence that God has elevated parents above any earthly authority. This is an attempt to resurrect an Old Testament-era legal theory, which afforded children no more right to life, liberty and self-direction than a sheep or a goat. It’s true thatbiblical fathers could do anything—including selling off their sons and daughters—but outside of homeschooling circles, few Americans would argue for a return to that kind of absolute parental license.

    In America, children are not possessions for parents to use or destroy. Rather, children are recognized as dependent beings whose bodies and futures are held in trust by their parents. Educational neglect is an abdication of a parent’s legal obligation of good stewardship. By failing to educate, parents potentially squander a child’s entire lifetime of future earnings and achievements. It’s difficult to imagine a more brazen theft.

    In a recent blog post, religious homeschooler Rosanna Ward summarized her own argument in favor of unregulated homeschooling:

    “I, as a parent, have the right to train up my children in the way I believe is right, including homeschooling. If someone else doesn’t like it, they have the choice not to homeschool—and they don’t even have to watch me homeschool.”

    The core of her suggestion is that when we suspect child abuse, we should simply look away. This idea is echoed when groups like HSLDA maintain that, because homeschooled victims of educational neglect are relatively few, they deserve no legal consideration.

    Ironically, while insisting that the government has no role in balancing the needs of powerless children against the rights of politically connected parents, well-funded religious groups like HSLDA vocally demand that government defend their members from an imaginary conspiracy to outlaw homeschooling. To my knowledge, no one in Virginia—or anywhere in America—is talking about banning homeschooling. Rather, conversations are about how to limit serious abuse with minimal collateral interference, while also giving victims access to justice in egregious cases. The suggestions include commonsense things, such as having parents submit a syllabus or requiring children to appear in person for yearly registration.

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  7. The final reason offered for doing nothing is that no amount of intervention can possibly prevent every instance of neglect and abuse. The homeschool alumni who are calling for reformhave never claimed otherwise. But when we see a parent slugging a three-year-old, we don’t look the other way because “some amount of abuse is bound to happen.” We don’t tell victims of other kinds of abuse to take their cases to God in the afterlife. And we certainly don’t fail to prosecute people who beat and molest because to doing so might inconvenience someone else.

    Lastly, it is worth noting the many homeschool abuses that have nothing to do with education. In the recent past, we could say that when a child was beaten, starved or molested, the way she was schooled was likely incidental. However, as homeschool loopholes have become well-known, they have attracted folks who are motivated to intentionally skirt child protections—whether to keep their victims from receiving sexual and physical abuse education, to keep other adults from seeing a child who is bruised, dirty or demonstrating behavioral symptoms, or to duck out of an already opened social services investigation.

    The tip of this iceberg can be seen in cases like that of Kenneth Brandt. By declaring his intention to homeschool, Brandt managed to effectively conceal the existence of several children he’d adopted from another state. Suspicions were raised when a child molester volunteered details about his dealings with Brandt during an unrelated online child prostitution investigation. When the full facts emerged, Brandt was shown to have gone through a lengthy adoption process with two boys and one girl before his predatory scheme finally unraveled. He was convicted of raping his adopted sons and of prostituting one of them to multiple men via Craigslist.

    In Brandt’s case it is glaringly obvious that homeschooling was integral to his crime. From murdered homeschooled children like Hana Williams and Lydia Schatz to the bloody physical torments of Christian homeschoolers Pam and Dwayne Hardy, examples of homeschooling as a child-abuse coverup abound. A handful of sensational stories have received national attention, but the majority of homeschool abuse cases do not. To bring awareness to the stunning breadth of the problem, another group of former homeschoolers—some survivors of abuse and some not—has created an online repository, called Homeschooling’s Invisible Children. There, reports of less publicized cases are meticulously collected and categorized.

    Given the severity of the problems that victims of homeschool abuse face, from the financial setbacks of illiteracy to the devastations of unchecked sexual and physical abuse, and even the risk of death, homeschooled children deserve careful, compassionate oversight backed, when needed, by the strength of the law.

    Writer and activist M Dolon Hickmon is the author of the novel "13:24: A Story of Faith and Obsession." at:


    to read the numerous links embedded in this article go to:


  8. Life in a Christian fundamentalist school

    By Tim Johns and Emma Hallett, BBC News June 11, 2014

    The Trojan Horse investigation has focused on an alleged plot to take over some Birmingham schools and run them according to Islamic principles. But while the role of Islam in education has come in for scrutiny, across the UK many students also follow a strict "fundamentalist" Christian curriculum.

    For 29-year-old Jonny Scaramanga, who attended Victory Christian School in Bath until he was 14, the experience was "horrendous".

    "At 8:15 I would arrive at my 'office' - a desk 2ft wide, with dividers 18 ins tall, designed to remove 'distractions'," he said.

    "Every morning we had an opening exercise: reciting pledges of allegiance to Jesus Christ, God and the Bible. Next, we recited that month's scripture passage; we had to memorise around 10-15 Bible-verses each month."

    He said the school adopted a "fundamentalist attitude" to religion, adding: "If you believed what they believed, you were Christian. If you believed anything else, you were not Christian."

    The school taught Accelerated Christian Education (ACE), a curriculum imported from the USA which is taught in about 50 independent schools across the UK.

    While the usual subjects are taught - English, Maths, Science, History and Geography among others - each is approached from a Biblical perspective.

    Most controversial are its view that homosexuality is a "learned behaviour" and its teaching of creationism instead of evolution.

    "The evolutionist needs some kind of a god with rules to explain what exists today, or he cannot explain it; and yet, he rejects such a god," one science text book states.

    "It is more responsible and more reasonable to presuppose that God exists and then pick up the Bible and read 'In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth' (Genesis 1:1).

    "Then you can see purpose in Creation, understand change, accept miracles, and know that His purpose has a goal."

    "History was taught as 'His-story' - things happened because they were God's will," Mr Scaramanga said.

    He said that at his school - which closed in 2000 - pupils had to learn and recount sections of Biblical scripture in order to pass any subject.

    "All of the content you learn with ACE has the religious message inherent within it," he said.

    "The politics coverage will say 'this is what God thinks about social security' and the science coverage will say 'this is what God says about chemistry'."

    When he was 12, Mr Scaramanga took part in the BBC Video Nation project and filmed himself talking about praying in tongues - a form of worship which occurs when someone apparently receives the Holy Spirit, enabling them to speak in another language.

    He has since posted the video on YouTube and says the video now makes him want to "cringe" and "throw-up".

    continued below

  9. He left in 1999 after becoming frustrated that ACE was "depriving him of educational and social opportunities". He went on to take GCSEs at the Methodist Kingswood School in Bath.

    "I started to have my mind prised open a bit, but I was still a creationist until I was probably around 20 years old," he said.

    "It was a gradual process... and it was towards the end of my degree when I really started to question things."

    He said it took him years to "get over" ACE, which he believes left him unprepared for life.

    "My ACE school taught me that dating was to be avoided and all physical contact was a bad idea until you'd found the one God planned for you to marry," Mr Scaramanga said.

    "I felt that I'd missed out on early experiences of flirting with the opposite sex, so I was always playing catch-up.

    "Through my degree I drank phenomenal amounts to try and make up for the lack of social skills I had."

    Mr Scaramanga, who is studying for a PhD looking at the experiences of ex-ACE students, now campaigns against the ACE curriculum and writes the blog Leaving Fundamentalism.

    Conversely Ben Medlock, 35, who co-founded the SwiftKey smartphone keyboard app and attended the same school as Mr Scaramanga, said his experience had been "broadly positive".

    His father was the headmaster of Victory School and is now head of Maranatha Christian School in Swindon.

    "While my own faith has evolved significantly from the conservatism of my childhood, I do feel that the values of the school provided students with a positive - though inevitably flawed - framework in which to view the world and interact with those around them," said Ben Medlock.

    "The curriculum encouraged students to take responsibility for their own work, not only setting their own goals but also, where appropriate, marking their work against a key.

    "For me, this stimulation towards self determination was a positive aspect of my school experience.

    "In short, my experience of this school was one of rich opportunities, deep friendships and the usual mix of childhood joy and pain."

    But Richy Thompson, who campaigns against 'faith' schools for the British Humanist Association, disapproves of the ACE curriculum.

    He said its International Certificate of Christian Education qualification, which at an advanced level is equivalent to an International A-Level, should be downgraded.

    "How can a science qualification that is so far removed from the evidence on matters of evolution possibly be worth the equivalent of a Cambridge International Examinations A Level?" he said.

    James Williams, lecturer in science education at the University of Sussex, went one step further and described ACE as "intellectual abuse".

    He said teachers were "arguing from a powerbase" and consequently able to use that authority to present to children something "that we know to be scientifically wrong and incorrect".

    "When you look at the ACE syllabus, it is definitely not a balanced view," he added. "They are deliberately using material aimed at very young children - comic books, comic stories - in order to indoctrinate them.

    "It leaves them [children] grossly unprepared for the real world. They have a view of society and people which is unrealistic, which doesn't match or fit any of the norms of society.

    "It is an absolute scandal that an organisation is trying to tell me that something as poorly constructed, as badly put together, is equivalent to an A-Level."

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  10. Christian Education Europe (CEE), which oversees the use of ACE in the UK, said in a statement: "No curriculum - Christian or secular - can cover every single concept in a way that would please everyone.

    "The users of our curriculum are independent and have the choice to adapt and manage the curriculum content as they so choose.

    "One of the overriding themes that runs through the curriculum is the clear Christian teaching to love all men as God does, regardless of one's own beliefs or persuasions.

    "Our curriculum does point to God as the creator; this is a view we are entitled to hold as there is enough robust debate around the question of evolution/creation within the scientific community itself to make this a valid decision, based on personal choice."

    Of the nine ACE schools inspected by Ofsted since the start of 2013, eight of them were rated either good or outstanding.

    Ofsted said it had previously not been authorised to assess the schools' curriculums - only the quality of their teaching and leadership - but that under a "new tougher inspection regime" for independent schools introduced in April schools were now "expected to teach a broad and balanced curriculum".

    It said it inspected schools against the Independent Schools Standards, using a published inspection framework, to ensure they meet requirements.

    "All independent schools - including those run by Christian Education Europe - must ensure that pupils are taught respect for others of different cultures and beliefs," a Department for Education spokesman said.

    "They must also comply with the Independent School Standards. If they fail to abide by them, we will not hesitate to take firm and immediate action."

    BBC Radio 2's Jeremy Vine Show will have more on the subject at 13:00 BST on Thursday 12 June and again on the iPlayer.

    ACE evolution teaching
    The ACE curriculum's approach to evolution is particularly controversial.

    A biology textbook states: "As astonishing as it may seem, many evolutionists theorize that fish evolved into amphibians and amphibians into reptiles...

    "However, the fossil record does not have the evidence of transitional forms...

    "From a Biblical perspective this is no surprise...

    "God created each type of fish, amphibian, and reptile as separate, unique animals."

    Accelerated Christian Education

    · ACE's philosophy is based on the Bible

    · Students are taught to "walk in Godly wisdom and character"

    · The curriculum serves both Christian schools and home schooling

    · It aims to "build in students" a "life-long passion to learn and grow spiritually"

    · The main method of learning is through workbooks in various subjects, reading supplied texts, filling-in-the- blanks questions, linking words with definitions, writing short essays, simple science experiments, solving mathematical problems, using computers and watching videos

    Source: Christian Education Europe website


  11. Conservative Christians Are on a Mission in Public Schools

    How anti-bullying, sex ed, and even science programs aim to convert students.

    By Katherine Stewart, Slate January 6, 2016

    Jason Evert, the founder of the Chastity Project, says the key to a happy life is for girls to dress modestly and abstain from sexual intimacy until marriage. He holds a number of inaccurate beliefs about sexually transmitted infections and has a habit of misrepresenting studies in the social sciences. What makes his story interesting is that he is paid to present his views on sexuality and relationships to public school students.

    Evert is far from alone. Religious groups keen on getting their messages to teenagers have found an effective way to do it at public expense. They come into public schools under the banner of substance abuse programs, character education, anti-bullying education, or sex education. Then they set aside the education and get down to the business of promoting a religious message, sometimes along with a partisan political agenda.

    The problem of faith-based assemblies in public schools is not new, but they are occurring under new guises, and their frequency appears to be growing. These publicly supported proselytizers take advantage of two key trends. Under relentless budgetary pressure, public schools increasingly allow outside groups to develop and manage courses that previously originated inside the school. At the same time, the Supreme Court has set a very high threshold for concerns related to the Establishment Clause, or the separation of church and state—or, in this case, church and school.

    Evert is an engaging speaker. At a lecture this fall, an assembly of approximately 800 students in ninth and tenth grade at Canutillo High School in El Paso, Texas, listened to him closely and laughed at his jokes. The lecture cost the school $1,000, which it paid to the crisis pregnancy center House of Hope, which arranged for Evert’s travel to El Paso. The program was titled “Love or Lust: Empowerment, Self-Worth, and the True Meaning of Love.”

    When the laughter dies down, however, what the students are left with is a stark view of intimate relationships that is grounded in Evert’s religious convictions and an endorsement of entrenched gender hierarchies. In Evert’s worldview, girls and women are either “pure as snow, all chastity” or “disrespecting themselves.” Men and boys are lustful cads who can’t be blamed for treating “unworthy” girls without respect or dignity.

    Evert regularly cites “studies” that support his worldview. Actually, he doesn’t cite studies—he just refers to them. When you locate the studies to which he is most likely referring, they are either of dubious quality or misrepresented.

    One of Evert’s favorite studies is the one where “they” prove that people who marry as virgins have longer, happier marriages. A little digging suggests that he is most likely referring to an abstinence study conducted by a professor at Brigham Young University. According to Psychology Today, that study, for the Journal of Family Psychology, utilized a “truly unrepresentative sample,” and even so, premarital abstinence accounted for “less than 2 percent of the variance in sexual satisfaction after getting married.”

    But facts never get in the way of Evert’s depiction of the dire consequences of premarital sex. “The sooner [a young woman] starts [to have sex] … she becomes more likely to have more breakups, STDs, out of wedlock pregnancy, become a single mom, live under the poverty level, have a divorce, be depressed, and on and on,” he says. “The longer a girl waits for sex, the happier she’s going to be.”

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  12. For Evert the dangers of contraception far outweigh any possible benefit. “Girls are just lied to about this stuff today,” he says. “They’ve got college girls in America getting hip replacement surgeries because their bones are so brittle from being on the birth control shot.”

    Evert tells the cautionary tale of a guy “who used a condom every time. Do you know how many pregnancies he caused? Seven. Do you know how many of the mothers he married? None.”

    Evert appears to have an ideal vision of a young girl, and she belongs on a wedding cake. “Girls,” he suggests toward the end of the lecture, “after school why don’t you go to a shopping mall, why don’t you buy a white candle. Let your husband light it on your wedding night as a sign of the purity that you’ve maintained from this day to the day he lifts your veil.”

    * * *

    While most covert religious assemblies enter the schools cloaked in subjects such as bullying, drug prevention, and sex education, even science is fair game. In November, students at Read-Pattillo Elementary School in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, were treated to a lunchtime presentation called Miracle of Science. After running through a series of tricks involving chemical reactions, the instructor wished the children “a blessed day” and invited them to attend an evening event called Family Night, which also took place at the school.

    Miracle of Science is the supposedly secular arm of God Science, a ministry that promotes creationism and whose doctrinal statement endorses Biblical inerrancy.

    “I use chemical demonstrations to convey how great our God is,” the organization’s founder, pastor Stephen Bruce Wilson, told me. He says the school-day Miracle of Science presentations are “more secular” and that Family Nights are more explicitly religious. “Parents bring their kids, or the kids bring their parents. I do a combination of faith and chemical demonstrations in those. We talk about the evidence for creationism versus evolution.”

    Bullying is an especially useful topic for public school evangelizers. In October, Nick Vujicic, an evangelical missionary and author with a rare genetic disorder that produced profound physical disabilities, delivered an anti-bullying presentation to students at multiple public high schools in Central Florida, including West Orange High School, Olympia High School, and Boone High School. Vujicic’s presentation included a pointed antiabortion message and several references to God. “Doors open to a man without arms and legs much more easily than to anyone else,” Vujicic writes on his website. “I’ve been invited into very unexpected places to share about my faith in Jesus Christ.”

    In 2015, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a national civil liberties organization, received approximately 270 complaints related to religion in public schools.* “Some speakers make it a point to keep the in-school presentation secular,” says Americans United attorney Ian Smith, “but others don’t even bother and just openly preach to the assembled students.”

    “Regardless of the nature of the assembly,” Smith continues, “almost all of them illegally utilize the opportunity to invite students to an after-school event that is explicitly religious. And this is because, regardless of whether the speaker or group follows the rules during the assembly or not, their goal is ultimately to get the kids into a church and to proselytize them.”

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  13. One way to entice kids is with muscle tricks. Groups including Team Xtreme International, Power Team, and Faith Force perform feats of physical strength in front of students. On their websites, they make the message clear: Faith makes strength.

    “These are bait-and-switch assemblies,” says Andrew Seidel, an attorney with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. “They get into schools on the pretext of a legitimate secular discussion and they appear to toe the constitutional line. But their real purpose is to advertise for an after-school program—often within the school itself—and the after-school program is straight up proselytizing. It’s a religious revival.” The FFRF has written at least 21 letters complaining about religious assemblies in public schools in the past year.

    * * *

    So how can these groups get away with such an obvious breach of church-state separation in public schools? Sometimes the school administrators are duped, either believing that the outfits hosting the assemblies are genuinely secular or trusting that they will stick to a secular message.

    But in other cases, the school administration is the problem. Administrators want to evangelize their students, too.

    At Read-Pattillo Elementary School, according to parent Erin Trimarco, religious activity at the school increased markedly after a change in administration. When she learned that the leaders of Miracle of Science push creationism and scientific illiteracy, she registered her concern, at least at first. Now, Trimarco says, “I no longer voice my concerns directly to the public school administration, since previous grievances were not received well.” (The school did not respond to requests for comment.)

    The community also often supports a religious message—support that can take the form of vigilante activity. Trimarco says that more than 25 nails have been put into her vehicle tires over the course of a year. “Central Florida is no place for a family who is looking for secular public education,” she says.

    Administrators at Canutillo High School, which hosted Jason Evert, did not respond to requests for an interview. However, an administrator at the event told local resident David Marcus, “We were hoping everyone would come … that was one of [Evert’s] stipulations that he would like to see all of our students.” (Marcus, who co-founded a civil liberties organization called Join Us for Justice with his wife, Jeryl, attended the event and sent me an audio recording of it.)

    This effort to preach to public school students reflects a change in the evangelical world. The overwhelming majority of those pushing religion in public schools are conservative evangelicals, along with a smattering of conservative Catholics like Evert. In earlier times, evangelical missionaries focused their energy on other, “unreached” regions of the world. In recent years, however, there has been a renewed interest in backyard missionary work. And the focus of the effort here is on children in public schools, which they decry as “Godless” and describe as “mission fields.”

    As Mat Staver, founder and leader of Liberty Counsel, one of the legal entities that defends missionary activity in public schools, has said, “If you want to change the face of the planet, you want to focus on those children ages 5 through 12; it is the most strategic age group that we have.”

    Of course, they aren’t just talking about their own children. They are in the public schools because that’s a good place to reach other people’s children.

    Katherine Stewart is the author of The Good News Club: The Christian Right’s Stealth Assault on America’s Children.


  14. Map of Publicly Funded US Schools That Are Allowed to Teach Creationism.

    Thousands of schools in states across the country can use taxpayer money to cast doubt on basic science.

    By Chris Kirk, Slate January 26, 2014

    A large, publicly funded charter school system in Texas is teaching creationism to its students, Zack Kopplin recently reported in Slate. Creationist teachers don’t even need to be sneaky about it—the Texas state science education standards, as well as recent laws in Louisiana and Tennessee, permit public school teachers to teach “alternatives” to evolution. Meanwhile, in Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Arizona, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, taxpayer money is funding creationist private schools through state tuition voucher or scholarship programs. As the map below illustrates, creationism in schools isn’t restricted to schoolhouses in remote villages where the separation of church and state is considered less sacred. If you live in any of these states, there’s a good chance your tax money is helping to convince some hapless students that evolution (the basis of all modern biological science, supported by everything we know about geology, genetics, paleontology, and other fields) is some sort of highly contested scientific hypothesis as credible as “God did it.”

    [see map at link below]

    State-by-state breakdown

    Arizona: As many as 15 schools that teach creationism may be participating in the state’s tax credit scholarship program for disabled children or children attending underperforming schools. (Arizona has not released a list of private schools that have received students on this scholarship.)

    Arkansas: Responsive Education Solutions operates two campuses in Arkansas that use creationist curricula. (See Texas.)

    Colorado: At least eight schools in Douglas County teach creationism while participating in the Douglas County Scholarship Program.

    Florida: At least 164 schools teach creationism while participating in the state’s tax credit scholarship programs for disabled children and children from low-income families.

    Georgia: At least 34 schools teach creationism while participating in the state’s tax credit scholarship program for disabled children.

    Indiana: At least 37 schools teach creationism while participating in the state’s voucher program for children from low-income families.

    continued below

  15. Louisiana The Louisiana Science Education Act of 2008 allows teachers to use “supplemental textbooks and other instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner,” specifically theories regarding “evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning”—in effect, allowing creationist material inside classroom. It’s no coincidence that the Discovery Institute, a creationist think tank that provides such “supplemental textbooks,” helped write the bill, which the American Association for the Advancement of Science described as an “assault against scientific integrity.”

    Ohio: At least 20 schools teach creationism while participating in a tax credit scholarship program for children in underperforming public schools.

    Oklahoma: At least five schools teach creationism while participating in a tax credit scholarship program for disabled children.

    Tennessee: A 2012 state law, like Louisiana's, permits public school teachers to teach the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of theories that can “cause controversy,” specifically citing evolution, global warming, and cloning, thereby providing legal cover for teachers who want to forward creationist pseudoscience.

    Texas: The state’s largest charter program, Responsive Ed, receives $82 million in taxpayer money each year, but that hasn’t stopped its schools from adopting a creationist curriculum that seriously misrepresents the science of evolution. These materials wrongly portray the fossil record and the age of Earth as scientifically controversial, assert that there is a lack of “transitional fossils,” and claim evolution is untestable.

    Utah: At least five schools teach creationism while participating in a tax-credit scholarship program for disabled children.

    Washington, D.C.: At least three schools teach creationism while participating in a tax-credit scholarship program for children from low-income families.

    Wisconsin: At least 15 schools teach creationism while participating in a Milwaukee or Racine voucher programs.

    Correction, Jan. 27, 2014: This article's headlines originally suggested that thousands of public schools in Louisiana and Tennessee are teaching creationism. While those schools are permitted to teach creationism, it is unclear how many are actually teaching it, and the headlines have been updated to reflect this.


  16. Christian fundamentalist schools teaching girls they must obey men

    Former pupils reveal homosexuality is being taught as unnatural, while Creationism is favoured over evolution in science lessons

    by Siobhan Fenton, The Independent June 5, 2016

    Christian fundamentalist schools are teaching children creationism is fact, that gay people are “unnatural” and that girls must submit to men, according to a series of claims.

    Former pupils and whistle-blowers have told The Independent that the schools, which originated in the US but are now dotted around the UK and registered as independent or private schools, teach children at isolated desks separated by “dividers” from other students. It is thought more than a thousand children are being taught at dozens of schools, although little is known about them.

    “No one outside the schools knows about what happens inside them, that’s why they’ve been able to go on like this for so long," a former pupil said.

    More than a decade after leaving, she says she is now horrified at the education she received.

    Called Accelerated Christian Education schools (ACE), the schools originate from an education system developed in southern Baptist states in the US which has developed off-shoots around the world including in Britain. Between 20 and 60 pupils aged between four and 18 attend each one.

    The Independent can reveal a number of serious concerns have been raised about the schools, including allegations that children are given no formal educational qualifications beyond "Christian certificates", thereby failing to equip them for opportunities and employment beyond the Church.

    Former pupils claim a key aspect of the schools’ ethos comes from a belief in individualistic self-salvation, whereby people must actively accept God's salvation to enter heaven.

    By extension, it is believed that children must teach themselves in order to get closer to God. Children are therefore expected to spend the first half of each school day teaching themselves by reading textbooks in silence, while facing the classroom walls in specially designed booths, which mean they cannot see children around them or interact with them. In the second half of the school day, children are taught in groups.

    Dr Matthew Pocock, who attended an ACE school in Witney, Oxfordshire, as a child, told The Independent: “We sat at our desks which were arranged around the outside of the room, with boards that slid in called ‘dividers’ that sectioned us off from the pupil either side. We were not allowed to talk or interact with each other.

    “To interact with staff, we had two flags. We would raise one flag for run-of-the-mill queries like asking for help with a question or a toilet break, and other one to signal that we were ready to take a test or needed input from the class teacher. If we put our flags up too often we would be told off.”

    Photos inside the schools are rare but one former pupil showedThe Independent photos of classroom booths in a Canadian school in the 1980s that are reportedly the same kind used in the UK schools still today.

    Former pupils say this self-teaching format resulted in poor education standards, with pupils who have learning difficulties such as dyslexia often particularly struggling. A number said they felt socially isolated by the segregated booths and failed to develop social skills by interacting with peers.

    One former pupil said: “By the time I left the school, I hadn’t really learnt anything that was of any relevance. I was taught facts and figures from reading the books, but there was no social learning in terms of interaction.”

    continued below

  17. The textbooks used by the schools have also been criticised for providing allegedly inappropriate material. A number of textbooks seen by The Independent and which are reportedly used in schools appear to include worrying content about gay people, women’s rights and also appear to teach creationism as fact.

    One textbook says: “Homosexual, adjective: having unnatural sexual feelings towards one of the same sex… Homosexual activity is another of man’s corruptions of God’s plan.

    Accelerated Christian Education textbook which former pupils say are used in the schools (Accelerated Christian Education textbook)

    “The Bible records that God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of homosexual activity. Some people mistakenly believe that an individual is born a homosexual and his attraction to those of the same sex is normal.”

    Textbooks say of the role of women and girls and society: “God has given both the husband and the wife certain areas of responsibility in the home. The husband is to be the leader of the home, loving his wife even as Christ loved the church… The wife is to obey, respect and submit to the leadership of her husband, serving as a helper to him… She is available all times day or night.”

    A section titled ‘Testimony of a Homemaker’ in one textbook reads: “God desires for me to submit to my husband, train up my children, see that my house is properly supplied, pray without ceasing, teach other women to love their husbands and children, and be discreet, pure and a keeper of my home.”

    (A passage from an Accelerated Christian Education textbook about the role of a 'homemaker')

    Former pupil Cheryl Povey who attended an ACE school in Bath, said: “I came across a lot of sexism. I remember as a girl finding it quite shocking. We were taught that if you’re a woman, you should be subservient to men; your husband, your pastor and other male figures.

    “There was a strong culture of men being revered and women being dangerously sexual and having to cover up. It made me self-conscious of being a woman.”

    Dr Pocock said attitudes towards women and ethnic minorities in the ACE curriculum also worried him. He said: “It taught me men were superior to, and should be in charge of, weak women, that the various different ethnic and social groups were ordained by God to have different roles and positions.”

    Another textbook warns that anyone who has sex outside marriage "will someday face God's judgement".

    An Accelerated Christian Education textbook reportedly used in UK schools (An Accelerated Christian Education textbook reportedly used in UK schools)

    Other textbooks seen by The Independent, and which the former pupils claim were widely used as part of the curriculum during their time at ACE schools, appear to state creationism as fact and describe evolution as “absurd”.

    One biology textbook states: “Although man’s characteristics are unique, evolutionists still insist that man descended from apes. Even from a strictly scientific standpoint, the theory of evolution is absurd.

    "Even from a scientific standpoint, the theory of evolution is absurd" (Image from Accelerated Christian Education textbook)

    “From as little as a tooth, evolutionists have fabricated entire groups of transitional fossils that ‘bridge the gap’ between men and apes!.. Evolutionists, who refuse to believe the simple truth of God’s divine Creation, will continue to struggle and search in vain for answers to the question of man’s origin unless they turn to God’s Word, the Bible.”

    (Image from Accelerated Christian Education textbook)

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  18. Another textbook states as scientific fact that the sun is six thousand years old and the world was created in six days.

    Former pupil Peter* (name changed to protect identity) said: “A huge amount of time and effort was given over to arguing against evolution and for creation, it’s a fundamental building block of the curriculum. The curriculum is stuck in the past like the rest of the fundamentalist southern Baptist churches it was born out of.”

    Textbooks seen by The Independent depict biblical passages and advice among science and maths worksheets (Image from Accelerated Christian Education textbook)

    Another concern raised about the schools is that the children are allegedly not entered for formal education qualifications such as GCSEs or A-levels.

    Former pupils say they are instead taught towards an ICCE- an International Certificate of Christian Education. The ICCE is not an officially recognised qualification meaning those who hold it can struggle to find employment or to be accepted into higher education such as university. Former pupilssay this disadvantages children and deprives them of opportunities later, unless they retrain as adults to gain additional, mainstream qualifications as well as the ICCE.

    Jonny Scaramanga is a writer and campaigner who has extensively researched the ACE school system. He is a former pupil of an ACE school in England and recently completed a PHD thesis about ACE at the UCL Institute of Education, which included analysis of the ACE textbooks illustrated throughout this article.

    He told The Independent: “I have read numerous Ofsted reports in the course of my research, and the issues most commonly raised by former ACE students are almost never mentioned, let alone satisfactorily addressed.
    In allowing ACE schools' failings to go unchecked for decades, the government has failed in its duty of care to students in ACE schools. In future, inspectors should be specially briefed on the issues frequently found in ACE schools.”

    He added that he is concerned by the 'Christian certificates' children sit instead of official qualifications, telling The Independent: “Since 2014, the Advertising Standards Authority has upheld three complaints against ACE schools for exaggerating the acceptability of the certificates [International Certificate of Christian Education] they offer. I have met numerous former ACE students who have had to return to college as adults to gain qualifications that they would have earned as a matter of course in mainstream schools. All English secondary schools should be required by law to prepare and enter students for qualifications recognised by Ofqual, the exam watchdog.”

    When The Independent contacted forty UK universities to ask whether they have or would accept pupils on the basis of ICCE awards, none of them said they officially accept the qualification other than in exceptional circumstances or if a student had other additional qualifications such as GCSEs or A levels to support their application.

    Despite this, the qualification is listed in UCAS' online publication 'UK qualifications for entry to university or college in 2015' and given the following description: “ICCE Advanced Certificate is accepted by many universities for undergraduate entry. A UK NAIRC assessment in 2011 carried out in both school and homeschool environments stated that the General Certificate can be considered comparable to Cambridge International Examinations O levels and the Advanced Certificate can be considered comparable to the CIE A level.”

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  19. When asked by The Independent why the qualification was included in the publication despite not being recognised by Ofqual and universities denying they accept it, a spokesperson for UCAS said the publication was not intended to give approval to any qualifications it included. They added that the description in UCAS' brochure had not been written by UCAS staff but by ICCE staff.

    Although state schools in the UK must follow a standardised curriculum, the same regulation does not apply to private schools, which ACE schools are registered as. When contacted by The Independent, Christian Education Europe, which runs ACE schools in the UK, would not confirm or deny if the textbooks illustrated here are used or respond to allegations from former pupils about the content of the curriculum they say they received. A spokesperson says the schools meet all Department for Education guidelines and their curriculum is broad, fair and balanced.

    In response to the issues raised, a Christian Education Europe spokesperson said: “All the schools we serve are inspected by the government inspectorate, Ofsted, and we prepare them to meet the criteria laid down by the Common Inspection Framework. It is a Government requirement that all schools have a child protection policy and designated child protection or safeguarding officer, staff DBS checks and receive child protection training. We satisfy these arrangements and many more besides.

    “All the schools provide Citizenship on the timetable and we embrace British values as part of the school culture. Life with students is experienced beyond the textbook and carried into an understanding that is suitable for modern day Britain.”

    They also referred The Independent to a document on their website regarding sex and relationship education which states: “Our Sex and Relationship Education concerns lifelong learning of physical, moral and emotional development. It is about the understanding of the importance of marriage for family life, stable and loving relationships, respect, love and care. It is also about the teaching of sex, sexuality, and sexual health. We will not promote sexual orientation or sexual activity, as this would be inappropriate teaching. Whilst we understand that the Government has redefined marriage, we will actively promote exclusive heterosexual marriage and celibate singleness as God’s gift and design; and as such the best way toward human happiness and fulfilment, but will discourage intolerance.”

    A spokesperson for Ofsted said: “The Department for Education is the registration authority for all independent schools. It has laid down a set of standards that independent schools, including faith schools, are required to meet. Ofsted inspects these schools against these standards, at the request of the DfE. Schools must comply with the standards in order to continue as a registered independent school.

    “Independent schools are not required to follow the national curriculum, but they are required to teach a curriculum that encourages respect for other people.”

    A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “All schools must promote the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect for different faiths and beliefs. This is a vital part of providing educational excellence everywhere. They must also encourage respect for other people, paying particular regard to the protected characteristics set out in the 2010 Equality Act.

    “ACE schools, like all other independent schools, are inspected against the new, tougher Independent School Standards, and where there are concerns a school is failing to meet these standards we will not hesitate to take action.”