In Arizona, a charter school has come under heavy criticism for using books that feature questionable religious teachings.
The Americans United for Separation of Chuch and State, a nonprofit organization filed a complaint to the state’s school board against Mesa-based Heritage Academy for using books that teach debunked “Christian nation” history and have “sexist, racist and anti-Semitic messages.”
“The 5,000 Year Leap” and “The Making of America”, by Cleon Skousen, are reading requirements for 12th graders at Mesa-based Heritage Academy. Skousen is a conservative author known for his faith-based political theories.
Garrett Epps, law professor at the University of Baltimore, spoke to The Arizona Republic against the use of Skousen’s books in the classroom.
“Skousen’s account of the growth and meaning of the Constitution is quite inaccurate,” he said to the newspaper in an e-mail interview.
“Parts of his major textbook, ‘The Making of America,’ present 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,” Epps said.
Epps said he believes that “any student taught from these materials in a public institution is being subjected to religious indoctrination” and “is also being crippled educationally and will be ill-prepared to take part in any serious program of instruction of American government and law.”
The schools principal doesn’t think there is anything wrong with using the books.
“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.”