Separation of church and state advocates push back on proposed FL social studies standards change

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Changes to Florida’s social studies standards are once again causing controversy.


Last year the addition of a learning objective teaching skills slaves learned that cause be used to their “benefit” made national headlines.

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Separation of church and state advocates are now raising the alarm about a change they fear could lead to students being taught about the Ten Commandments in school.

The proposed change to Florida’s social studies standards would require 6th-grade students to be taught about the impact of ancient Jewish civilizations on the United States constitutional Republic.

Devon Graham with American Atheists argued the change may seem benign, but it could stand to perpetuate the idea the US is a Judeo-Christian country.

“Quite frankly it’s exclusionary to students who are not from Christian or Jewish backgrounds,” said Graham.

On the other hand, State Representative Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay), who is Jewish, argued references to other religions in state standards have not faced the same pushback.

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“If people don’t have an issue with the six pillars of Islam being taught in our schools, and Islam had absolutely nothing to do with the founding of our country, well then they can save me the outrage when we talk about the influence of Jewish Americans,” said Fine.

But Stephana Ferrell with the Florida Freedom to Read Project noted a previous draft of the change made reference to ancient Christianity as well.

“We see this backchannel way of bringing Christian Nationalism viewpoints potentially into our classroom,” said Ferrell.

Additionally, she pointed to a civics training presentation given to Florida teachers last year that makes numerous references to Judeo-Christian influence on the country’s founders.

“It goes to a point where we might be teaching that our founders were Christian and believed that we were a Christian nation in our founding,” said Ferrell.

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But Fine argued acknowledging the influence of Judeo-Christian values on the United States shouldn’t be objectionable.

“And if these people don’t like it, there are many other countries around the world they can move to that don’t have that foundation. But we don’t change our history because liberals don’t like it,” said Fine.

The Florida Board of Education is set to vote on the change to standards at a meeting in Miami on Wednesday.

If approved, Graham said she believes the change could potentially face a court challenge.

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