- Associated Press - Thursday, July 15, 2010

GEORGETOWN, Ky. | Call it vacation Bible school, Glenn Beck-style.

Some three dozen kids ages 10 to 15 are spending five nights this week learning what organizers - some with “tea party” ties - say they won’t hear in school about the Constitution, the Founding Fathers and the role of faith in the birth of the United States.

“If we’re going to take our country back, we’ve got to remember where we came from - not only as adults, but we need to teach our children,” said Tim Fairfield, one of the teachers, who wore a three-cornered hat at the opening class of Vacation Liberty School. It’s held in a church basement in Georgetown, a city just north of Lexington that is the site of a major Toyota assembly plant.

The curriculum includes lessons like “equal rights, not equal results,” “recognize men don’t create rights - only God,” and “understanding falsehoods of separation of church and state.”

And organizers say the program has drawn interest from people looking to start new chapters in Ohio, Colorado, New York, Florida and other communities in Kentucky.

It’s is an offshoot of the 9/12 Project, inspired by Mr. Beck, the conservative commentator, who had no direct role in the planning of the Kentucky school. He did not respond to a request for comment made through his publicist. The project, which seeks to unify Americans around nine values, including honesty, hope and sincerity, and 12 principles, was behind some of the raucous protests at health care forums around the country last summer.

On Monday, the first night of Vacation Liberty School, the basement of Gano Baptist Church was converted into a tyrannical kingdom meant to resemble colonial England where students were told they must suppress their laughter, sit apart from their friends and flawlessly recite “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

Against the urgings of a mock king’s representative, the brave ones ventured through the rugged terrain of a maze of upside-down tables discovered an adjoining room with all the luxuries of the New World. There they could play basketball, toss beanbags and ride a teeter-totter while being showered with confetti as Neil Diamond’s “Coming To America” blared over the speakers.

Some parents showed up early to quiz the organizers about the curriculum. Others said they wouldn’t mind a conservative slant to balance out what they say is a liberal influence in the public school system.

“Other people are trying to put their viewpoints out there, so I don’t see any reason why we can’t put our viewpoints out there,” said John Cravens, the father of two children who attended.

Eric Wilson, head of the Kentucky 9/12 Project, acknowledges he and many others behind the school are strong supporters of the conservative tea party movement, which claims Kentucky Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul as one of its highest-profile members. But he said the curriculum was carefully planned to make sure politics didn’t creep in.

“We may be playing in the same sandbox,” Mr. Wilson said. “But in the 9/12 Project, we’re going to tell you where the sand came from while the tea party is telling you what sand to buy.”

Joe Conn, spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, isn’t so sure. A news release announcing the school referenced the tea party, leading him to believe that if Vacation Liberty School isn’t crossing the line into politics, it’s coming close.

“All Americans want kids to learn about the government and political system,” he said. “It’s something quite different when kids are being indoctrinated in church in one political tradition. That’s quite different from learning objectively and academically about civics.”

He cautions Gano Baptist could risk losing its tax-exempt status if explicit political lessons are being taught in a church setting.

But the Rev. Wayne Lipscomb, the pastor there, said he had no political motivations for allowing the classes to be held without a rental fee. Tickets were distributed online for free.

“I think our kids need to know about the Founding Fathers, and they need to understand the connection between God and the Founding Fathers,” he said. “They don’t need to hear the revisionists’ stories of history.”

With such weighty topics swirling, Matthew Porter, 13, seemed to get some of them jumbled.

“I didn’t know faith, hope and charity were parts of the Constitution,” he said. “I thought they made it as laws, nothing to do with church.”

Although there was no talk of Democrats or Republicans during Monday’s session, there was an activity geared toward teaching children the dangers of communism.

Given pistols to shoot soap bubbles out of the air, the students quickly learned they could do it far more easily by refilling from their own buckets of water rather than having to share a communal one.

Mr. Fairfield told the class the lesson is that while secular communism sounds good in theory, free enterprise works far better in practice.

Later in the week, the economic teachings would extend to lessons on debt and inflation. As more money is printed, the costs of candy and toys at the school’s canteen will skyrocket.

Even in the New World it’s not all fun and games, the children learned. When told it was time to clean up, Taylor Lopez, 10, responded with a quip.

“Now we have to clean up America?” she asked.

  • AP writer Roger Alford contributed to this report.

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