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Far-right lawmakers back bill that could ban teaching basic constitutional history

The House Freedom Caucus backs a bill that would cut off federal funding to anyone teaching about the full contents of America’s founding documents.

By Josh Israel - July 27, 2021
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Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ)

The far-right wing of the House Republican caucus endorsed a bill on Tuesday that would prohibit any federal funding for teaching about America’s racist history. If it were passed as written, the bill could be used to prohibit teaching about the most discriminatory provisions in the nation’s founding documents.

In an official statement, the House Freedom Caucus announced that it will “oppose any spending bill that does not defund Critical Race Theory (CRT) based trainings for federal employees.”

While critical race theory refers to a specific academic approach to examining the nation’s history and structure though the lens of the role racism has played and continues to play, Republicans have adopted the phrase as a catchall to use in opposing and obstructing any teaching about systemic racism.

The group also announced that it has “taken an official position in support of Rep. Dan Bishop’s Stop CRT Act,” referring to H.R. 3179, which Bishop (R-NC) introduced on May 13.

H.R. 3179 would ban federal funding to “any entity that teaches or advances” any of six concepts that fall under GOP definitions of critical race theory, including the ideas that “any race is inherently superior or inferior to any other race”; that the U.S. “is a fundamentally racist country”; that the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence “are fundamentally racist documents”; and that “any individual, by virtue of his or her race, is inherently racist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.”

Since its formation in 2015, dozens of the most hard-line conservative House Republicans have joined the Freedom Caucus. They claim to back “open, accountable and limited government, the Constitution and the rule of law, and policies that promote the liberty, safety and prosperity of all Americans.” While no official roster has been published, many of its members have been identified, including its chair, Andy Biggs (AZ), and its vice chair, Jim Jordan (OH).

The proposal is co-sponsored by 61 other representatives — all Republicans.

While it is unclear how the law would be interpreted, the provision governing the founding documents could effectively bar teaching about the three-fifths compromise and other instances of racism in U.S. history.

The text of the U.S. Constitution, adopted in 1787 and ratified in 1788, contained a clause saying that congressional seats would be apportioned on the basis of the total of “the whole number of free persons” and “three fifths of all other Persons” in each state, which gave greater political power to slave-holding states.

Earlier, anti-slavery language included by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence had been deleted before the declaration was voted on and adopted by the Continental Congress in 1776.

It did keep in a clause that called Native Americans “the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.”

Spokespeople for Bishop and the Freedom Caucus did not immediately respond to inquiries about whether schools would lose funding if teachers were to teach their students about what was in the nation’s founding documents.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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