Published Online: March 5, 1997


History Lessons

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Legislators in at least a half-dozen states proposed bills either last year or this year that would authorize or require the display and teaching of certain American historical documents. Proponents say that curriculum materials often ignore or downplay the moral and religious underpinnings of the documents.

But critics say that nothing prohibits the teaching of such documents already, including their religious aspects, and that the bills are designed to promote more frequent discussion of religion in public school classrooms.

The following documents have been listed by most states that have considered such measures:

  • The Mayflower Compact
  • The Declaration of Independence
  • The U.S. Constitution
  • The Bill of Rights
  • The Federalist Papers
  • George Washington's Farewell Address
  • The Emancipation Proclamation

Some states also list the National Motto, the National Anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance, and their own state constitutions.

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