California Principal Sends Back Religious Text Books

September 16, 1999 12:00 am

Media Contact
125 Broad Street
18th Floor
New York, NY 10004
United States


BELRIDGE, CA — Bowing to legal pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union, a public elementary school in California has decided not to use Christian textbooks that describe other religions as cults and say God helped Columbus discover America, the Associated Press reported today.

Belridge Elementary Principal Steven Wentland, who also serves as superintendent of the 60-student, one-school district, told the AP Wednesday that “every last flashcard” would be delivered back to A Beka Books Inc., a Pensacola, Fla.-based Christian publishing company.

“We’ll pull them out. It’s OK,” he said, adding that he doesn’t want to get into a courtroom battle or generate negative publicity. “We don’t hold any grudges.”

The legal dispute began last month when Wentland approved the use of the A Beka curriculum after holding public meetings about the contents over the summer.

The school board also approved them, and all of the parents signed consent forms after they were shown samples and reassured that some material would be edited to avoid problems. An anonymous donor offered to pay for the books, so approval by state education officials was not mandatory.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of a retired Methodist minister and Veronica Van Ry, who said she felt compelled to pull her 13-year-old daughter out of the school after a closer look at the texts.

Michael Small, lead attorney in the case for the ACLU’s Southern California affiliate, said that while the Constitution allows schools to integrate the Bible and religion in an objective manner, Belridge was crossing the line.

“It has embarked on a frightening crusade in which it seeks to indoctrinate behind the schoolhouse gates impressionable students – as young as 5-years-old – into accepting a prescribed religious orthodoxy,” he told the AP.

According to the AP, A Beka describes itself as “unashamedly Christian and traditional in its approach” and weaves fundamental Christian ideologies into daily exercises.

One grammar book asks students to place the correct punctuation at the end of the following sentence: “The Hebrew people often grumbled and complained.”

History books tell students that although American Indians “attained a degree of civilization,” they “had no knowledge of the true God, and without this knowledge all other attainments are worthless.” Another book warns that non-Christians will be denied a place in heaven, and that Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christian Scientists belong to cults.

The ACLU of Southern California filed its lawsuit Aug. 24, (/news/1999/n082499b.html) one day after students were welcomed back from summer vacation with a banner in the cafeteria that read: “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

Learn More About the Issues in This Press Release