A group that advocates for the separation of church and state says an Arizona charter school is using texts that push Christianity and one that includes "sexist, racist and anti-Semitic messages."
Americans United for Separation of Church and State recently lodged a complaint with the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools about the use of two books in Heritage Academy classrooms. According to Americans United, The 5,000 Year Leap and The Making of America, by Cleon Skousen, “teach debunked ‘Christian nation’ history."
“Reading the text of The 5,000 Year Leap easily demonstrates that the book does not merely acknowledge the influence of religion in the nation’s founding, but actively promotes and endorses specific religious views and ideologies,” says the letter from the organization to the state's charter school board. “For example, the fifth of twenty-eight principles taught by the book is that ‘All Things Were Created by God, Therefore upon Him All Mankind are Equally Dependent, and to Him They are Equally Responsible.’”
Greg Epps, a law professor at the University of Baltimore, also told The Arizona Republic that The Making Of America "present[s] a systematically racist view of the Civil War. ... A long description of slavery in the book claims that the state (of slavery) was beneficial to African Americans and that Southern racism was caused by the 'intrusion' of northern abolitionists and advocates of equality for the freed slaves.”
Still, other legal scholars quoted in the article did not take issue with the school’s use of the books.
Cleon Skousen, who died in 2006, gained attention in recent years after conservative media mogul Glenn Beck started to promote his work.
“A once-famous anti-communist ‘historian,’ Skousen was too extreme even for the conservative activists of the Goldwater era, but Glenn Beck has now rescued him from the remainder pile of history, and introduced him to a receptive new audience,” says a 2009 Salon article on Beck’s love for the author.
However, representatives from Heritage Academy, a public charter school funded by taxpayer dollars, say they don’t see anything wrong with making Skousen’s books required reading.
"Our purpose is not to convert students to different religious views," Earl Taylor, Heritage founder and principal, told The Arizona Republic. "It is to show them that religion influenced what the Founders did."
Taylor also mentioned the school plans to scale back on the use of Skousen books.