Investigation of Christian fundamentalist groups introducing religious doctrine into public schools across the United States.
Freelance journalist and novelist Stewart (Class Mothers, 2006, etc.) became aware of the fundamentalist campaign when it entered her daughter's elementary school in California, and later, the school district in their new home in New York City. Stewart not only interviewed school officials, classroom teachers, constitutional-law experts and students, but she also attended training sessions sponsored by Christian fundamentalists. Despite what she assumed was an inviolable separation between church and state, Stewart discovered that the U.S. Supreme Court, led by justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, has been interpreting the Constitution to mandate taxpayer-financed public schools to open their buildings to evangelical missionaries. The author explains some of the court's rulings, including the leading case Good News Club v. Milford Central School (2001). Although Stewart treats the missionaries fairly, the book is advocacy journalism at its strongest. The author does not mask her dismay at the success of the movement, and she is especially concerned that the evangelicals are laboring to skew textbooks so that all lessons revolve around the virtues of a Christian nation, and are pushing for the defunding of public education in favor of church-affiliated schools. At times Stewart's phrasing borders on alarmist, but she usually backs up the alarm with solid reporting. Some of the most poignant sections move away from policy debates to demonstrate how many evangelists have ripped the formerly positive fabric of student-teacher-administrator-parent cooperation, replacing it with warring camps—those who oppose the introduction of fundamentalist religion, those who favor it and those uncertain what to think.
Compelling investigative journalism about an undercovered phenomenon.