Tea Party’s Wobbly Constitutional ‘Lessons’

June 8, 2011

The tea party-fueled effort to provide public schools with so-called constitutional history lessons continues to attract concern, with Constitutional Accountability Center’s Doug Kendall calling it a disgraceful propaganda movement.

In a recent piece for The Huffington Post, Kendall challenged the Tea party to “find one credible historian,” to support the Tea Party’s constitutional lessons, which are based on materials created by W. Cleon Skousen, a far-right conspiracy theorist with links to the John Birch society ….”

ACS has also called out the Tea Party for its take on the constitution's underpinnings, which echo Christian nation enthusiasts' talking points. Also is an article for The Huffington Post, ACS Executive Director Caroline Fredrickson knocked the Tea Party “Patriots” for “pushing a constitutional curriculum designed by the National Center for Constitutional Studies, which disseminates reading materials suggesting that God intended for America to be a Christian nation, that the Jamestown settlers starved to death because they were communists who failed to embrace capitalism, and that the national parks were unconstitutional.”

Public school officials should not open their doors to these types of lessons, which are clearly intended to push a political agenda, besides offering wildly distorted interpretations of history, Fredrickson continued. (Moreover the lessons are laced with religiosity, which could prove constitutionally problematic for the public schools. The Supreme Court has ruled that organized prayer and other religious activities in the public school violate the First Amendment, though truly voluntary student prayer and religious activities are permissible.)

Instead of allowing Tea Party elements to invade the nation’s public schools with their take on the Constitution, Fredrickson said school officials should look to ACS’s long-running Constitution in the Classroom Project.

That project involves bringing local attorneys into the classrooms to introduce students to a decidedly nonpartisan examination of important constitutional principles that affect their lives, such as freedom of speech and religion and privacy rights.  The ACS project does not claim the Constitution was created by Christians for Christians. Instead, the nation’s Constitution is a progressive document with the promise of inherent rights for all humans, protection of those fundamental rights from unconstitutional government action, and equality under our laws for all humans.

See here for more information about ACS’s Constitution in the Classroom project.