Reigniting the church-and-state debate, a group in Washington is criticizing a charter school for teaching history with books embraced by the tea party movement, the Arizona Republic reports. Americans United for Separation of Church and State says the Heritage Academy in Mesa, Arizona, shouldn't be using two books by Cleon Skousen, a prominent anti-communist of the 1950s and 1960s. Why not? In one book, The 5,000 Year Leap, Skousen wrote that the Founding Fathers were inspired by God to write the Declaration of Independence and fight off the British empire. "These books push 'Christian nation' propaganda and other religious teachings on impressionable, young students," said a director of Americans United.
Other critics say that a second Skousen title used by the school, The Making of America, presents a "racist" view of the Civil War era in which northern abolitionists supposedly caused southern racism. One essay reprinted in the book says white boys "were likely to envy the freedom" of black children who ran naked, Raw Story reports. The school plans to scale back use of the books, but only because they come to 1,200 pages and burden students with too much work. "Our purpose is not to convert students to different religious views," says the school's principal. "It is to show them that religion influenced what the Founders did." Skousen's books gained popularity among tea party advocates in 2007, when Glenn Beck praised them on his talk show. (Read more charter school stories.)