Americans United for Separation of Church and State is investigating allegations that the state of Florida is promoting white Christian nationalism through new public school curriculum standards.
Concerns stem from a new Civics Literacy Excellence Initiative promoted by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has become a leading national voice for a political agenda favored by conservative evangelicals.
One teacher who attended a three-day training event in Broward County told the Miami Herald: “It was very skewed. There was a very strong Christian fundamentalist way toward analyzing different quotes and different documents. That was concerning.”
Those concerns from Barbara Segal, a 12th grade government teacher at Fort Lauderdale High School, were echoed by others who have seen the new curriculum and commented to the Herald.
“There was this Christian nationalism philosophy that was just baked into everything,” said Richard Judd, a Nova High School social studies teacher with 22 years of experience.
DeSantis and other state officials have said they intend to counter a “woke” culture they believe has infiltrated public education.
Teachers at the Broward County training event reported that instructors pushed the Bible and Christianity in their comments. Attendees also said the focus appeared to be on retraining well-educated teachers in a different way of understanding history — a view favored by religious conservatives.
In particular, revisionist views were given on the nation’s founding, separation of church and state, and the history of slavery. All these have been hot-button topics in protests against public schools organized by national organizations, often under the banner of “parental rights” and against Critical Race Theory.
Americans United said it is particularly concerned about the role Hillsdale College and the Bill of Rights Institute played in development of the new Florida curriculum. Hillsdale is a conservative evangelical school in Michigan with strong ties to conservative political figures. The Bill of Rights Institute is a nonprofit based in suburban Washington, D.C., and founded by conservative kingmaker Charles Koch. It focuses on civics resources for schools from the perspective of what the nation’s founders intended — akin to the doctrine of “originalism” now pervasive on the U.S. Supreme Court.
What’s happening in Florida appears to be a codification of Christian nationalism, according to Rachel Laser, president of Americans United.
“We’re not going to sit by while politicians smuggle white Christian nationalism into public school curriculums under the guise of good citizenship,” she said. “This is another attack in the long war religious extremists and their lawmaker allies have launched on our public schools.”
She added: “The state shouldn’t be indoctrinating students into Christian nationalism but educating them about the separation of church and state, which is embedded in our Constitution because the founders recognized it is the only guarantee of religious freedom for all. What we need right now is a national recommitment to the separation of church and state.”
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