By Kathleen Gilbert

AUSTIN, Texas, January 14, 2010 ( – A crowd of Texans appeared before a State Board of Education panel in Austin Wednesday to make their voices heard on what should be included in, or kept out of, the account of history that will be presented to public school students.

Adherents of several points of view took advantage of the opportunity to give an argument for what person, event, or subject deserved historical emphasis in the state's history textbooks.  Suggestions ranged from an admiral's plea to include more naval history, to a request for mention of Davy Crockett, reports the El Paso Times.  One Texan high school student called for more emphasis on the Sikh religion, saying he was often ridiculed for dressing in traditional Sikh garb; others sought recognition of makeup entrepreneur Mary Kay Ash.

Some topics of controversy, surrounding inclusion of Christmas and Mexican labor leader César Chávez, were cut off by chairwoman Gail Lowe – who informed the crowd before the session began that both would be included.  The Times reports that the topics were among several that sparked debate last year when it was suggested they could be removed from the curriculum.

A more current argument revolves around how much emphasis will be granted to the religious beliefs of America's founding fathers, according to an Associated Press report.

“Some board members and the non-expert ideologues they appointed to a review panel have made it clear that they want students to learn that the founding fathers intended America to be an explicitly Christian nation with laws based on their own narrow interpretations of the Bible,” said Kathy Miller, president of the liberal Texas Freedom Network.

Former board chairman, Republican Don McLeroy, said that was a misrepresentation of conservative Texans' intentions.

“I don't see anyone wanting to say that this is a Christian nation or anything like that,” he said. “The argument is that the principles on which (the nation) has been founded are biblically based.”

Some historians have signed up to testify at and monitor the amendments, reports the AP.  Derek Davis, director of the Center for Religious Liberty at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, said that failing to recognize the role of religion in American history would mean “an incomplete education”; yet said it would violate the Constitution and students' religious liberties to depict America “as a Christian nation in some legal or constitutional sense.”

“This is the first time the State Board of Education is going to get to vote on this, so you can't take anything for granted,” said Jonathan Saenz of the conservative lobby group Free Market Foundation. “I think it would be a tragedy if students talk about Martin Luther King Jr., while not being able to talk about the fact that he had a strong Christian faith.

“I'm hoping that's not the direction we're headed.”