Louisiana Democrat Opposes Students Reciting Declaration of Independence

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

A Democratic state legislator in Louisiana believes students should not recite the Declaration of Independence because it was written when slavery still existed. Representative Barbara Norton argued against a bill that would require fourth through sixth graders to memorize a part of the founding document.

“In 1776, Dr. King was not even born, Norton said. “African Americans were in slavery so since they were in slavery and the Declaration of Independence says we were all created equal, we were not created equal because in 1776 July the 4 I, nor you, nor any of us were born, nor was Dr. King born, so we were in slavery and to to have our children to repeat, to repeat again and again documents that were not even validated, I don’t think that’s fair because we are teaching them a lie.”

Under the bill, Louisiana students would be asked to recite the following passage of the Declaration: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

To some lawmakers, however, these words are tainted by the legacy of slavery. “For you to ask our children to repeat the Declaration stating that all men are free – I think that’s unfair,” Norton said.

The Declaration of Independence was signed by the 13 original colonies and adopted at the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. The document prompted the Revolutionary War between the American colonists and Great Britain that subsequently led to the establishment of the United States as a free and sovereign nation. The document was written at a time when poor men, women, and African-Americans were not considered equal under the law.

According to Robert Jonathan of the website Inquisitor, Representative Norton and several of her colleagues introduced amendments to the bill that would require students to recite passages from other historical documents, such as Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Some Republicans accused Representative Norton of adding these “poison pills” into the bill to ensure its rejection.

A writer for the conservative media outlet Breitbart notes that state Democrats have invited a backlash over their opposition to the recitation bill. A blog post at the Greater New Orleans Tea Party read: “It is outrageous that our ELECTED OFFICIALS are unable to discern the difference between a statement of TRUTH…. and past behavior!!! Guess Norton and Smith object to teaching our kids that the earth is round because, in the past, many ignored this truth and acted upon the erroneous belief that the world was flat!!!”

The Republican lawmaker who sponsored the bill, Valarie Hodges, withdrew her bill from the Louisiana House, as reported by The Eagle. The House officially ends its session on Monday, June 6. Thus, the measure will be labeled indefinitely until some form of bipartisan compromise can be reached.