A well-circulated school handout is teaching children that rights are given to citizens not by their Creator, but by their government.
The author of the handout, Phyllis Naegeli, writes educational (used loosely) materials for elementary school-aged children. Her lesson Being a Good Citizen, found on EdHelper.com, states the following:
When you are a citizen you have rights. Rights are special privileges the government gives you. In our country, you have free speech. You are also given the right to choose a religion.
Because the government gives us rights, we have the duty to be good citizens.
The writing, which dates back to at least 2009, caused much controversy then, so much so that Naegeli came to her own defense in a concerned forum group discussion that year. Here's what she said:
From what I have discovered an article I wrote for edhelper.com because [sic] quite a point of controversy on your forum the other day. I am being accused of spreading left-wing propaganda, being a Pelosi relative, and other such incorrect titles. I am a Christian and I own up to mistakes that I make. I made a mistake in these articles by saying the government gives us rights. The government is to protect the rights we are given by God. For that I apologize and ask for forgiveness. I am far from being left wing. I chose the incorrect words to try to simply describe what being a citizen is. I never intended for anyone to be offended by this or to spread some incorrect information to children. I home educated all of my children and have been very careful about what they were taught. I have taught them to be loyal citizens of our wonderful country.
Naegeli asked EdHelper.com to revise her writing to say the following:
As a citizen you have special privileges called rights. The government protects those rights. In our country, you have free speech. You are also given the right to choose a religion.
Because the government protects our rights, we have the duty to be good citizens.
Naegeli states that she no longer writes for the teachers' resource website and does not own the writing she produced for them. She advises anyone who takes issue with her work to contact them directly to request changes.
But it may be too late because the damage has been done. Despite the revisions, the original work is still being distributed. Fast forward five years to November 2014 -- Andrew Washburn posts a picture to Facebook of Naegeli's original Being A Good Citizen given to his 8-year-old daughter at school. Washburn sarcastically writes, "I just feel so grateful to live in a country whose leaders have generously granted my rights, and even more grateful that they make sure my children know where those rights came from!"
There are also other lessons written by Naegeli that can be found online. One is titled Our Living Constitution in which she writes, "Our Constitution is alive! That's because it can be changed."
Another is United States Citizenship where she states, "As a citizen, you give your loyalty to the U.S. government."