Back to School with the Religious Right

The Continuing Assault on Public Education

The Religious Right continues to target public schools in a variety of ways that disrupt education and threaten religious liberty, according to a report released today by People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF).

"While educators and parents want to give their children the tools to become informed and productive citizens, the Religious Right is trying to narrowly dictate what students can read and learn," said Ralph G. Neas, President of PFAWF. "In doing so, they are undermining the integrity of our system of public education."

The report provides an in-depth analysis of the struggle over the future of our public education system by focusing on six categories: creationism; textbook controversies; sexuality education; religion and public schools; anti-gay activity and censorship.

Examples detailed in the report include:

In Cromwell, Conn., parents sought to ban the popular Harry Potter book series following similar action in schools across the country. The parents claimed the books exposed children to spells and witchcraft and gave a negative portrayal of Christianity. Several national Religious Right organizations including, Concerned Women for America, the Traditional Values Coalition, The American Family Association, and Focus on the Family, have warned their supporters against the supposed dangers of the Harry Potter books.

In Louisiana, school districts are being asked by The Louisiana Family Forum, an affiliate of Focus on the Family, to adopt a Bible curriculum produced by a private group called the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBCPS). Elizabeth Ridenour, president of the group, has described the group's efforts as an attempt to "expose the kids to the biblical Christian worldview." NCCBPS' curriculum has been adopted by eight parish (county) school boards following the state's decision to leave the choice of whether to teach the curriculum to local school boards. PFAWF has supported efforts to help school officials teach about religion, including the Bible, in ways that do not violate the Constitution.

Across the country, the Religious Right shamelessly used the events of Sept. 11 to promote its agenda of re-establishing organized, state-sponsored prayer in public schools. The Rev. Jerry Falwell widely distributed an e-mail telling supporters that it was good politics to press for school prayer after the terrorist attacks. "Prior to the Sept. 11 attacks on our nation, this might have been an unwise campaign approach. But not now," Falwell said.

Click here to read the full report.

People For the American Way Foundation has been tracking the activities of the Religious Right political movement for 20 years and is the nation's pre-eminent expert on the day-to-day activities of the Religious Right. This essential "watchdog" work involves keeping exhaustive records of what ultraconservative groups communicate to their target audiences, exposing the truth when they deceptively tailor their messages for the mainstream media, and helping to organize other groups and communities to oppose Religious Right efforts to undermine the separation of church and state.

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