This Ohio School Board, Already Known for Pushing Creationism, Is Now Pushing Revisionist Christian History

The Springboro School District in Ohio is already in hot water for trying to add Creationism to its curriculum. And if there was any doubt about the agenda of the School Board President Kelly Kohls, who also runs a local Tea Party group, it’s pretty obvious now.

The School Board approved a 12-week summer course on the Constitution and here’s the flyer promoting it:

It even says “learn your Godly American heritage.” But the kicker is that David Barton is one of the instructors (over video). Barton, of course, is the discredited pseudo-historian whose Christian publishing company pulled his book from the shelves because of all the inaccuracies contained in it. John Eidsmoe is no better, once telling people that “Jefferson Davis and John C. Calhoun understood the Constitution better than did Abraham Lincoln and Daniel Webster.”

And what about Ricki Pepin, whose name appears at the bottom of the flyer? Here’s the banner on her website:

At least some parents were onto the scheme and said as much at school board meetings and to local media:

“I request you [Kohls] resign your position as school board president immediately because of the conflict of interest and religious convictions,” said a concerned parent, Garlene Hamilton.

“The fact that we’re using public resources for something that is clearly promoting a political and religious agenda that appears to be unconstitutional as well as a waste of taxpayer dollars is unconscionable,” said parent David Bowman.

Even more disturbing that a Barton curriculum in a public school is the fact that the school board is testing this class out in the summer in the hopes that they can offer it to students in the new school year as part of “Constitution Day.” The state requires schools to introduce students to original texts of our founding documents, and this is how they’ve chosen to do it.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has already alerted them to the problems with this course (PDF):

“… the content of these courses are up for scrutiny for factual accuracy. Thus, we urge the board to cancel these summer courses and again urge the board to reject these groups as sponsors of presentation as part of future Constitution Day celebrations.”

“It is deeply troubling that despite widespread community opposition to these policies from local residents and taxpayers and groups like the ACLU of Ohio and FFRF, the district would continue to move forward with these presentations of religious propaganda and disinformation at its local schools…”

So how did the school board react to all the criticism of this course?

Most of them had no comment. Only the Vice President of the school board said anything and it was far from reassuring:

[Critics] complained because the courses weren’t evaluated and now they’re complaining because we’re opening them up for evaluation. Some people you can’t make happy,” [said] board Vice Pres. Jim Rigano.

No, they’re complaining because their incompetent school board is pushing blatantly conservative propaganda into the district under the guise of educational courses. They’re complaining because their kids are the ones who will suffer by not learning anything of value. This isn’t just pushing religion into the classroom, it’s pushing factually untrue history into the minds of students, leaving them unprepared and woefully behind their classmates when they head to college.

Responsible parents need to keep fighting back against this even as other organizations contemplate taking legal action.

If you’d like to send a (polite) letter to the members of the school board, here’s the information you need:

Kelly Kohls
David Petroni
Don Miller
Jim Rigano
Wendy Kull

(via Right Wing Watch)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Jasper

    I guess it doesn’t surprise me that the Right is so dogmatic about the Constitution too. The founding fathers built into it the capacity to be updated, since they knew they couldn’t predict the needs of society from there on out.

    Even if the Constitution was “godly”, that’s something we should fix.

  • gimpi1

    So Mr. Barton’s latest book being pulled by the publisher because of massive factual errors doesn’t damage his credibility in Texas? Mr. Eidsmoe’s apparent praise of racism in the old south isn’t a problem in Texas? Sadly, I can’t say I’m surprised.

    • Beth

      Sadly it seems that some people are trying to turn Ohio into Texas.

      • gimpi1

        These kind of bugs are often virulently contagious. Unfortunately, the best inoculation is the very education they undermine. It’s hard to figure out what to do. Any ideas?

        • Spuddie

          The main problem being that they are not ignorant per se. My guess is Barton followers know they are full of crap, but don’t care because it is in service of their theocratic agenda. Lying for the Lord is always OK.

          The best thing to do is to publicize what they do and keep them from slipping this crap under the public radar.

          • Kerry

            You many be correct, although I contend that they all assume he is an “expert” on these issues since he reportedly owns 1000′s of original documents, but that is like me telling you I have a library full of medical books…so that makes me a doctor! Christians are accustomed to having people in leadership tell them what to think, i.e. a pastor interpreting the bible for them. It is natural to let someone else do the work and tell you what the documents mean, rather then read them for yourself.

        • Beth

          ‘Discussions” with christians on message boards? That’s what I have been doing :-P

      • Antinomian

        Equally sad that we’ve spent two generations trying to rid ourselves of our Kentucky and West Virginia heritige.

      • gimpi1

        My mistake, Beth. This started in Texas, and has spread. I thought I put in a sentence about that, but apparently edited it out. That’s what I get when I try to comment before coffee:)

  • new_atheist

    I believe Matt Dillahunty once said it best (and I am paraphrasing):

    Even if the Founding Father’s did desire a Christian theocracy, so what? We are no more beholden to their personal feelings on religion than we are to their feelings about slavery and the rights of women.

    • Cyrus Palmer

      THANK YOU! I’m so sick of the apologist’s arguments about what the founding fathers said. Or more often, meant without saying.

      • Spuddie

        Except they never actually said any of it. In most cases David Barton and kind make shit up spread it and hope nobody calls them out on it.

        Usually by the time his lies are revealed there are already hundreds of theocratic dumbasses repeating it ad nauseum in public.

        • WallofSleep

          Hundreds? Damn, that kind of optimism is impressive.

          • Spuddie

            Its less optimism and more delusion on my part.

            • WallofSleep

              Hehehe. Yeah, sometimes we lie to ourselves just so we can make through another fucking day of this inane bullshit.

      • Gus Snarp

        It’s almost as if they think the Founding Fathers are Gods, or divinely inspired and the Constitution is the next book of the Bible.

        • Matt D

          I played a video game (“Bioshock Infinite”) where the founding fathers were worshipped as gods……it was surreal, to say the least.

    • meekinheritance

      True, but that argument cuts both ways. Even if the Founding Father’s desired an atheocracy (is that a real word?), so what? The Xians are no more beholden to those feelings than they are to those on slavery or women’s rights.

      • Gus Snarp

        But we, and they, are beholden to the actual law that is the Constitution and the centuries of judicial precedent interpreting it.

  • Rain

    “[Critics] complained because the courses weren’t evaluated and now they’re complaining because we’re opening them up for evaluation. Some people you can’t make happy,” [said] board Vice Pres. Jim Rigano.

    Aw shucks! Them there eeval-ye-wayshun! Taint never happy! No matter wut!

    • Feminerd

      Indeed. I’m pretty sure the whole point of an evaluation is to then throw out curricula that fail to meet basic standards of accuracy, not to rubber-stamp the board’s bad choices. Transparency is important- thus the evaluation. Using the results of that transparency to make good choices is the next step. If the evaluation shows what you’re doing isn’t working, the proper response is not to blame the evaluation. It’s to fix the fucking problem!

  • Beth

    I already wrote to them about Creationism once…here we go again!

  • Reginald Selkirk

    But hey remember, the Tea Party is not just the same old religious right Republican base. It is serious people with serious questions about big gubmint and high taxes.

    • abb3w

      The Tea Party is identifiable as distinct from the religious right these days; the Tea Party tends to be more theologically and religiously conservative.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments

    by James “Mr. Constitution” Madison

    • Gus Snarp

      Somehow when they go cherry picking for their “primary source materials” I don’t think they’ll pick that one. Or this one:

      • baal

        It’s almost like some of the big name founders really thought that religion was a personal and not governmental matter. As such, the government really ought not to get involved (by say holding special revisionist summer classes for the whole family).

  • MargueriteF

    It is genuinely shocking to me (though by now I really shouldn’t be shocked) that a public school board would think it was okay to offer a class on our so-called “Godly American heritage.”

    Also, when I Google “Institute on the Constitution,” it pulls up this site:

    which says this in its header: “There is a God, the God of the Bible. Our rights come from Him. The purpose of civil government is to secure these God-given rights.” Under “Who we are,” it adds: “We believe that by understanding the way in which the framers of our Constitutional Republic viewed their relationship to God, to other sovereign states, to their families and to each other, we can gain valuable and practical insight into the foundational principles of America…Let us, first of all, thank God for the freedoms that He has allowed us to retain and let’s begin to recover the lost tools of self-government by learning about our place in His history… participants in the Institute on the Constitution series can begin and continue the challenging but rewarding and Godly task of restoring our lost freedoms and passing on our Constitutional heritage of freedom to future generations of free Americans.”

    And someone (no, several someones) thought this was okay for a public school course? Seriously??

    • eric

      The Orwell is strong with this group. Recovering self-government by learning about our place in his plan…Oceania probably has a ministry dedicated to that.

    • Miss_Beara

      “There is an Allah, the Allah of the Koran. Our rights come from Him” they would have a huge problem with but since their God is the correct God, or something, it is perfectly ok to inject their theocratic longings disguising it as “history” and “what it says in the Constitution.”

    • meekinheritance

      I like this part, “We believe that by understanding the way in which the framers of our
      Constitutional Republic viewed their relationship to God, to other
      sovereign states, to their families and to each other, we can gain
      valuable and practical insight into the foundational principles of

      • Feminerd

        Probably true, though not in the ways the authors meant. There are lots of interesting insights to be had from Jefferson, Madison, and Washington on the subject of religion in government and government in religion.

        This doesn’t mean what they wanted is Gospel Truth ™, of course. It’s historically interesting is all.

  • jferris

    I have trouble seeing the point in writing to the board members. If you aren’t in their district, they don’t have to listen. If you challenge their core religious beliefs, they won’t listen. It is very very difficult to get someone to take their most deep seated belief and suddenly throw it out. I suggest we write to the ACLU and others as support for a lawsuit, or even donate to the appropriate office. It is so frustrating being pissed off, frustrating that facts are irrelevant. Like someone else posted, education is the best inoculation against theocracy.

  • Miss_Beara

    Ohio: Texas of the Midwest. *

    * Followed closely by Wisconsin and Kansas.

    • Gus Snarp

      Kansas isn’t following anybody anywhere. If anything, Texas should be called the Kansas of the South.

  • Gus Snarp

    Red flags:

    “Godly” – Blatantly unconstitutional.

    “Use them to restore your freedoms” – Tea Party propaganda.

    “True original intent” – Constitutional scholars disagree on the importance of original intent and how the Constitution is to be interpreted, you can’t just tell the kids “original intent” is the only way to interpret the Constitution and we know what that intent was, because we’re psychic mediums, or something.

    and the kicker: “David Barton” – Known liar and Christian pseudohistorian.

    I wonder what the “primary source materials” they plan to use are. Obviously not the copious works of Jefferson that make it quite clear that his “true original intent” was indeed a wall of separation between church and state”.

    • Kerry

      And my guess is they will not use much material by Chris Rodda!! :)

  • Gus Snarp

    I’m not in that district, but this is way too close to me for comfort. People from that area commute to work in Cincinnati. One of my office mates lives very close to there. That means there’s a good chance I’ll be working with the ignoramuses this school board is trying to create one day. Scary. Plus I’m sandwiched between these people in the north and the Creation Museum in the south.

  • Kerry

    I too have sent emails to the board. I have friends that are very close friends of Barton. Several years ago they presented me with one of his books which I was only too pleased to read since I did not know who he was at that time. It did not take me long to understand that he had an agenda different from presenting history. David McCullough he is not!

    I was disgusted with his careless use of quotations, and utter obfuscation of material to create the false impression that America was a Christian nation. The fact that there were many Christians does not a Christian nation make. Clearly our founders having understood the religious wars of Europe, wanted no part of Churchianty.

    Barton is no historian, no matter how many original documents he may own. He is a manipulative, conniving crusader for the religious right. Unfortunately, the lemmings that follow him do not know how to look up footnotes when reading his books, and thus are led astray.

    Please everyone….send notes to the Board. Your voice needs to be heard.


    There are over three hundred thousand churches in the U.S. and the religious right cannot stop trying to force their ideas into the public schools. If so much as a penny of public money gets spent pushing Mr. Barton’s pseudo history, these board members are guilty of malfeasance.

  • Mick

    I wish I could come back in a hundred years, just to see what happened to y’all.

  • Stev84

    The disaster that is democratized education strikes again

  • Matt D

    Clearly, some influential creationists are under the impression the public education undermines their authority.
    I doubt they can stop a leak when an ocean has already formed under it, but they certainly have the money and influence to try.

  • Gizmo
  • Rich Wilson
  • Stuck in the Boro Bubble

    Here is the weekly outline of lesson plans for the Institute on the Constitution (at the top of page): Springboro School board stated that it didn’t have a right wing political agenda. And it looks like there is a “Camp American” where they teach the same Institute on the Constitution to ages 12-18: The goal of Camp American™ is to raise a core of knowledgeable, godly leaders for the 21st century. Camp American will also help your teen recognize and refute false teachings and morally bankrupt philosophies now so prevalent in American culture. Students will discover the deception of evolution, the importance of purity and morals in a free society, and the pagan connection to the radical environmental movement. Your teen will learn the importance of prayer and action. Most importantly, students will learn that in order to restore America, we must return America to Christ. – See more at: