American Heritage Education Act Passes!
A Small, but Significant Victory for Freedom
By Michael J Chapman
On July 14, 2005, Governor Pawlenty signed the Minnesota Education Omnibus bill into law. Included in the 128 pages were two short paragraphs that open the door to begin reclaiming Americas forgotten heritage. The American Heritage in Public Education Act does two things: 1) It encourages schools to teach Americas Founding Principles from original sources. 2) It prevents the censorship of religious references from those sources. Teachers may now introduce their students to Americas uncensored Christian heritage without fear!
Representative Mark Olson (R, Big Lake) and I began six years ago on an idea to prevent the censorship of Americas true heritage. We had several goals. In addition to encouraging the study of our Founders uncensored writings, speeches, proclamations, and original documents, we sought to give students the freedom to choose religious topics when other students were allowed to freely choose a topic.
In 2002, American Heritage Research brought in Historian David Barton (www.wallbuilders.com) to help testify on behalf of the American Heritage Act. Bartons extensive collection of rare founding documents and my examples of censored Minnesota curriculum, along with testimony from Representative Mark Olson and school-board member Glenn Gruenhagen, overwhelmed the House Education Committee and the bill passed. That year the full House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the bill by a supra majority. Sadly, the Senate education committee despite Senator Bachmanns best efforts refused to allow a vote!
Road to Victory:
This past legislative session, after passing the House for a THIRD time, and with pressure applied by Minnesota citizens stirred by EdAction Alerts, the Senate finally agreed to hear the bill. Senate author Michele Bachmann, working with Mark Olson and I, again brought historian David Barton to testify. Bachmann, Barton, and I presented our case before the Senate Education Committee in March of 2005.
The opposition brought three cases against our bill:
1. Senator Kelley argued, "The American Heritage Act is not necessary, since its not against the law to do these things today."
Our Answer: Religious liberty was considered an unalienable right prior to passage of the first amendment. Yet our Founders saw the wisdom to ensure Congress would make no law restricting those rights. Likewise, this bill ensures that no district may censor teachers who fear lawsuits or state action against them for bringing in sources containing religious references.
2. The Minnesota School Board Association lobbyist claimed that if passed, "radicals would be standing up at school events shouting out passages from Mein Kampf." (No Kidding!)
Our Answer: First, Mein Kampf is not included among Americas founding documents. Second, the point is patently absurd similar to arguing against the First Amendment out of fear someone might shout "FIRE" in a crowded theater.
3. Opposition accused us of a veiled attempt to introduce religion into the classroom.
Our Answer: Nothing in this bill requires the teaching of religion or forces students to believe what our Founders believed to be true - religious or otherwise. It simply directs that history be presented fully and accurately.
The committee chamber was crowded with families in favor of the American Heritage Act who had just heard a presentation by Barton and me on the importance of the bill. I'm convinced that had Senator Kelley (committee chair) allowed a vote right then, the House version would have passed in its entirety!
Instead, Senator Kelley held it over until several days later when the room was filled with bureaucrats, union representatives, and other education professionals. Despite the odds, Senator Bachmann managed to win a victory and see a small piece of the bill pass:
(a) School districts shall permit grade-level instruction for students to read and study America's founding documents, including documents that contributed to the foundation or maintenance of America's representative form of limited government, the Bill of Rights, our free-market economic system, and patriotism."
Although a good start, the Senate refused to allow significant pieces from the House version, including protection against religious censorship and the freedom of choice for students. (The full House bill language is available on my website at: www.AmericanHeritageResearch.com)
Small but Significant Victory!
During the joint House and Senate education committee meetings, while Senator Kelley visited with a lobbyist outside the room, committee Republicans pressed and passed the American Heritage Act with this important addition:
(b) Districts may not censor or restrain instruction in American or Minnesota state history or heritage based on religious references in original source documents, writings, speeches, proclamations, or records.
This small but significant victory opens a door of opportunity for teachers to bring in uncensored references without fear of district interference or ACLU lawsuits. Perhaps they might start with the preamble to Minnesotas Constitution, where we, the people of the state of Minnesota express our gratitude to God for both our CIVIL and RELIGIOUS liberties!
Please thank Senator Michele Bachmann and Representative Mark Olson for their leadership, and the Republican conferees (Representatives Sykora, Buesgens, Erickson, Heidgerken, and Senator Gen Olson.)
For more information, visit: www.AmericanHeritageResearch.com and www.Edwatch.org