Jul 2, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Florida training program: "Misconception" that founders wanted separation of church and state

DeSantis at a press conference

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference to discuss Florida's civics education initiative. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A new civics training program for public school teachers in Florida says it is a “misconception” that “the founders desired strict separation of church and state,” the Washington Post reports.

Driving the news: That and other content in a state-sponsored training course has raised eyebrows among some who have participated and felt it was omitting unflattering information about the country's founders, pushing inaccuracies and centering religious ideas, per the Post.

  • The Constitution explicitly bars the government from “respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Scholars interpret the passage to require a separation of church and state, per the Post.
  • In another example, the training states that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were against slavery, while omitting the fact that each owned enslaved people.

State of Play: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has decried what he has branded "indoctrination” in public education.

  • DeSantis has instituted new civics curriculum since taking office, and this summer is offering optional “civics bootcamps” on how teachers can implement it. Teachers who participate get paid.

What he's saying: “We’re unabashedly promoting civics and history that is accurate and that is not trying to push an ideological agenda,” DeSantis said at an event earlier this week, per the Post.

  • Students in Florida are “learning the real history, you’re learning the real facts,” he added.

The other side: Anna Fusco, who leads the Broward Teachers Union, said some teachers who attended the training sessions said they felt they were being directed to teach “only one side of history,” the Post reported.

  • “It was basically, it’s this way or no way, like there’s only one side to American history,” Fusco said, per the Post. “Then they kind of slipped in a Christian values piece, ignoring the fact that this country is made up of so many different cultures and religions.”

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