Oklahoma GOP tries (again) to force Christian Nationalism into public schools
A proposed bill would inject Christian propaganda into U.S. history classes
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Oklahoma Republicans have proposed a bill that would inject Christianity into social studies classes, forcing public schools to take a page from pseudo-historian David Barton’s playbook.
The bill would require schools to teach kids “specific quotes from the founding fathers about America’s Christian heritage including the influence of the Ten Commandments and the Bible on America’s founding documents.”
Even if that’s “presented objectively,” as the bill states, it’s built on the premise that America is a Christian Nation (which is a lie), that the Ten Commandments influenced the founding (which it didn’t), and that our country was built on pages of the Bible (which it wasn’t).
Here’s the relevant passage of SB 867, which would be added to current state law if the bill passed. It says “The United States history component required in the social studies curriculum for all students shall include”:
… Information regarding the original intent of the founding fathers while constructing the United States Constitution. Teachers of United States history shall include primary sources from the founding era and throughout America’s history and specific quotes from the founding fathers about America’s Christian heritage including the influence of the Ten Commandments and the Bible on America’s founding documents if presented objectively as part of a secular program of education. Primary sources shall include but not be limited to John Adams, Joseph Story, George Washington, Benjamin Rush, Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, John Jay, James Otis, and Noah Webster.
The primary sponsor of SB 867 is State Sen. David Bullard, who tried a similar gambit four years ago.
Back then, constitutional attorney Andrew Seidel called him out for his ignorance of history:
The bill is flawed from the start, if only because it fails to understand that most scholars do not consider Webster and Story to be “Founding Fathers”—they weren’t part of the Continental Congresses or Constitutional Convention, and Webster never held a national office. Story was born three years after the colonies declared independence and was only ten years old when the Constitution was written.
Story did go on to become a Supreme Court justice and no doubt Bullard wants teachers to repeat this Story quote: “I verily believe Christianity necessary to the support of civil society.” That line comes from a private letter, but in his public writings—the first definitive legal commentaries on the Constitution—Story explained that the U.S. Constitution “cut off for ever every pretence of any alliance between church and state in the national government.” Does Bullard want that taught, too?
In 2019, that bill went nowhere. Hopefully, the more recent version will meet the same fate. But it’s all part of the same larger scheme to inject a fictional Christian past into a factual retelling of American history. That playbook has been referred to as “Project Blitz” in the past, but the conservative attempt to rewrite history isn’t just a religious one. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is doing the same thing with African American history as we speak, hoping to hide certain aspects of it from the top students in the state because Republicans are uncomfortable with it. (Sadly, the College Board appears to be caving to his threats.)
And now Bullard is once again doing Barton’s bidding.
I asked Seidel what he thought about Bullard’s latest bill and he highlighted the Christian Nationalist movement’s goals:
Bullard typifies the Christian Nationalist politician. Entirely lacking in policy proposals that would aid his constituents or improve their lives, he focuses on the tribalism of Christian Nationalism: demonizing "others" and using machinery of the state to impose his benighted identity on everyone else. Pushing the disinformation about America's founding as part of a public school curriculum is meant to rewrite American history to suggest that to truly be an American, one must be the "right" kind of conservative Christian. Everyone else can and should then be legally treated as second class. Conservative white Christian privilege is the true goal of bills like this.
Our nation wasn’t built on Christianity. It was built in spite of it, with an emphasis on religious freedom and with a Constitution specifically devoid of religious intrusion. As the saying goes, the word religion appears twice in the document, and both times, it’s preceded by the word “no.” Any religious references are perfunctory (such as a mention of “the year of our Lord”).
But because the facts aren’t on Bullard’s side, he’ll settle for misinformation in lieu of education. It would be a tragedy for students in his state if the bill passed.
(screenshot via YouTube)