The training emphasized that it was a “misconception” that the “Founders desired strict separation of church and state,” and ending school prayer was characterized as unjust.
A new state initiative designed to prepare students to be “virtuous citizens” has some South Florida teachers concerned over what one teacher told the Times/Herald was “a very strong Christian fundamentalist way toward analyzing different quotes and different [historical] documents.”
Part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Civics Literacy Excellence Initiative, which limits what schools can teach about race and gender identity, among other aspects of history, the nearly $6 million program was created to train Florida public school teachers how to teach civics… the DeSantis way.
One slide used during the training claimed that the “Founders expected religion to be promoted because they believed it to be essential to civic virtue.”
Trainers also underscored the importance of citizens being “virtuous”, or risking becoming “licentious” and subject to tyranny.
The training also emphasized that it was a “misconception” that the “Founders desired strict separation of church and state,” and ending school prayer was characterized as unjust and akin to upholding segregation.
According to some attendees to the sessions, the trainers repeatedly mentioned the influence of Jesus Christ and the Bible on the foundation of the country.
With respect to race, trainers expressed that the colonies didn’t buy nearly as many enslaved people during the transatlantic slave trade as has been portrayed, as if this attenuated America’s part in the slave trade and subsequent use of enslaved people. (Fact check: According to the Library of Congress, there were nearly 4 million enslaved people in the overall US population in 1860).
This is in accordance with DeSantis’ war on what he calls the “woke” ideology of the left.
“They are saying religion’s role in the public square should be eliminated […] They are trying to establish a religion of their own,” the Republican governor said during a Focus of the Family podcast.
This sentiment is echoed by other Republicans, like Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), who says she is “tired” of the longstanding separation between church and state in the US, and that she believes “the church is supposed to direct the government.”
Going Against the Founding Fathers
But despite DeSantis and the extreme right’s claims, the concept of a separation between church and state is derived from the establishment clause in the Bill of Rights, which says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” In fact, to say that the government is founded on Christian values goes against the efforts the Founding Fathers made to promote the separation of religion and government.