5/1/2007 - May 2007 Educational Update - Christian Heritage Week
AN EDUCATIONAL UPDATE FROM
THE SOUTHEAST LAW INSTITUTETM, INC.
To: SLI Supporters
Date: May 2007
From: A. Eric Johnston
Re: Christian Heritage Week
America's political, cultural and historic foundations are based on scriptural principles brought to this country by people seeking religious freedom. From their original efforts, America has grown into a great and free nation. It was the idea of Adjunct History and Political Science Professor Christopher Hopper of Snead State Community College that we should have an Alabama Christian Heritage Week. He presented this idea to Representative Blaine Galliher (R-Gadsden). SLI drafted a seven page bill making specific legislative findings of our Christian heritage and based on these directed certain requirements of study for Alabama public schools.
There are 13 specific legislative findings which include, among other things, recognition that: our Declaration of Independence finds that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights"; our U.S. Constitution is based on the Christian concept of covenant and its drafters professed belief in a Christian God invoking His providence; the U.S. Supreme Court has acknowledged we are "a Christian nation" and "one's education is not complete without a study . . . of the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization"; our laws are related to concepts of "the rule of law," equality of man and personal liberty; we invoke the name of God on our money, in our anthems, and on monuments; we have defeated the abomination of slavery based upon the equality of man; we are a diverse culture where there is presently much confusion about who we are and what is our heritage; and a study of our Christian heritage will help students to understand and carry those traditions into the future.
Based on the legislative findings, the proposed law would require the first full scholastic week in November of each year to provide 20 minutes per day devoted to the teaching of students of the influence on Christianity in the United States. The studies would include, among other things, the study of Colonial America, heroes or leaders, concepts of government, historical documents, debates and sermons, and symbols, structures and monuments. The State Board of Education would promulgate necessary rules to implement the law. The law would not be construed to require or inhibit the teaching of religion and would not proselytize or require any student to subscribe to any religious tenet or belief.
The bill first came up for consideration in the Senate Education Committee. Though no public hearing was requested, the bill's sponsors and the committee requested SLI to explain the bill and to answer questions. There were many legitimate questions about how to best implement a law when there were so many procedural regulations in public education. It was agreed the bill would be carried over for study and cooperation with the State Department of Education. The following week, the bill was to be considered in the House Education Committee, but was also carried over for further study.
We have no problem with determining the best way to implement such an act. However, what concerned us was uninformed, obtuse, and, even, hostile comments directed toward our Christian heritage. These remarks were by several committee members and Department of Education lobbyists who were present. Their concern was that we would be required to teach other religions. One Senator commented that while Dr. Martin Luther King was a minister of the Gospel preaching the equality of man, one of his chief influences was Mahatma Gandhi (a political and spiritual leader of India). Our observation was that if we had used the religion of Gandhi, we would have a caste system in this country and would not have the very freedoms permitted by Christian principles.
We testified that no one came to America in the name of any other religion; only Christians who were seeking religious freedom. The principles they believed, taught and ingrained in American laws and custom permit the diverse culture that we have, including the right of freedom of religion. In present days, the beliefs and events of early America have become distorted. For example, textbooks say that Thanksgiving was a day the Pilgrims thanked the Indians for their help. Documents from that time prove the Pilgrims were giving thanks to God and joined with the Indians for celebration.
Subsequent to the hearing, we began work with key Senators and the Board of Education to develop the best method for ultimately teaching the Christian heritage of America. It concerns us greatly that even in the Alabama Legislature we subject our Christian heritage to abuse; a place where all except one legislator (a devout Muslim) would profess, at least in name, to be Christian. It is nothing to be ashamed of. It does not violate the establishment clause. Students desperately need to understand their heritage and to carry it into the future.
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