2010 Archives

Christianity's role in history of U.S. at issue


The following is from the January 10, 2010, edition of The Austin American-Statesman. Edward Countryman, a University Distinguished Professor of History in SMU's William P. Clements Department of History and author of The American Revolution, provided expertise for this story.

January 19, 2010

By Joshunda Sanders

When the State Board of Education meets this week to tackle revisions to the social studies curriculum in Texas public schools, some of the most contentious public debate is likely to center on recommendations by two men who want more emphasis on the role of Christianity in how the nation was formed.

The ideas submitted by well-known Christian conservatives David Barton and the Rev. Peter Marshall could influence how social studies is taught in Texas for the next decade. The board's final decision on the social studies curriculum is expected in March.

Barton and Marshall were among six reviewers chosen by the board to make suggestions for changing the curriculum. Their key recommendations for revision include more emphasis on documents from early America like the Mayflower Compact of 1620, written by Christian pilgrims who wanted religious freedom, or adding the Bible to sources that influenced the creation of significant documents when America was founded. If their changes are accepted, students who now receive a more generic overview of religious freedom and its importance in the country's founding would be taught that the nation's founders wanted to shape America based on biblical principles. . .

(Derek Davis, a dean at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton ) added that the view that the nation's Christian roots shaped documents like the Constitution is "fairly common," particularly among Christians. But Edward Countryman, a history professor at Southern Methodist University who was once considered a potential addition to the group of reviewers, said that common or not, the idea has no place in public education.

"It's historically false to say that the Founding Fathers intended to create a Christian republic. I don't think this idea should be taught in schools."

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