In Texas, students there might not learn about the ugly side of Christianity in their history books, but they will get the idea that America was founded as a Christian nation.
Texas schoolchildren should know how God and religion greatly influenced the country's Founding Fathers more than 230 years ago, say experts reviewing the state's social studies curriculum.
It is a viewpoint that troubles others who worry that a controlling majority of conservatives on the State Board of Education may go too far.
"To characterize the origins of this country as a Christian nation would be wrong," said Steven Schafersman, president of Texans Citizens For Science. “It is absolutely false. That kind of belief is dangerous ... the Founding Fathers actually were deists — they
believed in God as creator, who permits the universe to operate according to natural laws rather than continued intervention. As such, they did not believe the Bible or Jesus were divine."
Peter Marshall, one of six “expert reviewers” appointed by the State Board of Education to help write the new standards, and Presbyterian minister, argues that children cannot get an accurate portrayal of U.S. history ... "The influence of the Bible and the Christian faith is absolutely gigantic in American history.”
State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, said it is hard to predict the board's involvement in deciding the religious content of the history standards. In her book, One Nation Under God, Dunbar argued that Founding Fathers created “an emphatically Christian government.”
It is a philosophy that worries Schafersman and others. “We have to have a mutual live-and-let-live understanding, and that's not what I'm seeing from the seven radical religious right members."
Getting experts to agree on the religious beliefs of the Founding Fathers may be difficult. Christianity did influence some of them, said Richard Hughes, distinguished professor of religion at Messiah College. “It is absolutely right to suggest that Puritans who settled New England came here with a vision for a Christian commonwealth,” Hughes said.
“It is absolutely wrong to suggest that America's founders had that same vision. They simply didn't. If you talked to many of the Founding Fathers about American's Christian heritage, they would have revolted, but if you were talking about a godly republic, they would buy that, sure,” he said.