A federal district court in Alabama ruled that public school textbooks that omitted reference to the significance of religion in American history and in current American life impermissibly promoted a religion of secular humanism in violation of the first amendment to the United States Constitution.
The court observed that though religion has been one of the most vital forces to shape our culture, "one would never know it by reading these books." Omitted were much of the history of the Puritans, the great awakenings, colonial missionaries (except when depicted as oppressors of native Americans), the religious influence behind the abolition of slavery, women's suffrage, temperance, and modern civil rights and peace movements, and the role of religion in the lives of immigrants and minorities.
"These books," concluded the court, "discriminate against the very concept of religion, and theistic religion in particular, by omissions so serious that a student learning history from them would not be apprised of relevant facts about America's history." Such deliberate underemphasis amounted to the establishment of the religion of humanism. Smith v. Board of School Commissioners, 655 F. Supp. 939 (S.D. Ala. 1987).