May 3rd, 2010
03:37 PM ET

Turning schools into pulpits?

Texas and atheists - seems like a volatile mix. Texas is one of the most pious states in the nation, and atheists are still viewed with suspicion by many Americans.

Those two worlds will collide on May 16 when the nation’s largest atheist group holds a rally on the steps of the Texas state capitol in Austin to protest proposed changes in the state’s social studies curriculum.

The Texas Board of Education voted in March to approve additions to the curriculum that would include a more conservative perspective on U.S. history.

The board, for example, says students should learn more about events such as the rise of the religious right in the 1980s. Another proposed change includes a more sympathetic look at McCarthyism.

The nation’s largest atheist group, the American Atheists, objects. They say the Texas board wants to turn schools into pulpits.

“If they were really just trying to add balance, why would they not consult with real historians,” says Kathleen Johnson, who is organizing the protest for American Atheists.

The debate over the Texas board’s decision is not going anywhere. But the protest raises some questions: Do historians give short thrift to conservatives’ contributions to U.S. history? Should students be required to read about the rise of the religious right just as they are required to read about the civil rights movement?

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Christianity • Culture wars • Politics • Religious liberty

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