Be True To Your School: Calif. Parents Debunk Religious Right Attack

Parents in Cupertino, Calif., aren't about to sit around on their hands while Religious Right groups and the right-wing media spread false information about their school. They're fighting back.

As previously reported, teacher Steven Williams at Stevens Creek Elementary School claims that officials there have ordered him to stop teaching about the Declaration of Independence because it contains a reference to "the Creator." Williams says other materials he sought to use in class that contain religious references were also banned. Backed by the Alliance Defense Fund, Williams is suing the school. (See "Classroom Indoctrination?: What You Haven't Heard About A California Teacher's Case," AU Blog, Dec. 9.)

Williams' inflammatory allegations quickly took hold on right-wing websites and were sometimes reported uncritically in the media. On Fox News Channel's "Hannity & Colmes" and on TV preacher Pat Robertson's "700 Club," Williams made himself out as a victim of anti-Christian bias.

But other reporters looked into the case and determined that Williams' claims were not all they were cranked up to be. Several parents had complained about Williams, asserting that he promotes fundamentalist Christianity in the classroom. Many parents say the material he used in class promoted a "Christian nation" view of American history. Williams was never told to stop using the Declaration of Independence in class.

To set the record straight, parents at the school have created their own website to debunk Williams' claims.

A visit to the site indicates that Stevens Creek Elementary is not quite the hotbed of anti-Christian fanaticism that Williams claims it is. One photo shows the Declaration of Independence hanging on a wall in the school. Another photo shows a parent displaying a Nativity scene to kindergarten students as part of an instructional effort aimed to teach about religion in an objective way.

States the website, "The Declaration of Independence as well as other historic documents, are taught, discussed and fully reproduced in our 5th grade books, in accordance with state mandates and the district's curriculum. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are both prominently displayed in the school library."