A public elementary school has decided not to use Christian textbooks that describe other religions as cults and say God helped Columbus discover America. The American Civil Liberties Union had sued over the books.
Belridge Elementary Principal Steven Wentland, who also is superintendent of the 60-student, one-school district, said Wednesday that "every last flash card" would be returned to A Beka Books Inc., a Pensacola, Fla.-based Christian publishing company. "We'll pull them out."
Wentland approved the use of the A Beka curriculum after holding public meetings about the contents over the summer. The school board also approved the books, and all of the parents signed consent forms after they were shown samples and reassured that some material would be edited to avoid problems. An anonymous donor offered to pay for the books, so approval by state education officials was not mandatory.
A Beka describes itself as "unashamedly Christian and traditional in its approach" and weaves fundamental Christian ideologies into daily exercises.
One grammar book asks students to place the correct punctuation at the end of the following sentence: "The Hebrew people often grumbled and complained."
History books tell students that although American Indians "attained a degree of civilization," they "had no knowledge of the true God, and without this knowledge all other attainments are worthless." Another book warns that non-Christians will be denied a place in heaven, and that Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and Christian Scientists belong to cults.
The ACLU sued on Aug. 24, a day after students were welcomed back from summer vacation with a banner in the cafeteria that read: "This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it."
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a retired Methodist minister and Veronica Van Ry, who felt compelled to pull her 13-year-old daughter out of the school.
Michael Small, chief counsel for the ACLU's Southern California office, said while the Constitution allows schools to integrate the Bible and religion in an objective manner, Belridge was crossing the line.