Minister questions history books in Norwin schools


Daily News Staff Writer

A North Huntingdon Township minister continues to press his case against textbooks already being used and against others under consideration for future use in Norwin School District.

The Rev. Bruce Leonatti, pastor of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Circleville, questions what he believes to be “Islamic-biased” content in books used by history classes.

“We need to know things about other religions,” Leonatti conceded in an exchange with Norwin school directors Monday, “but they should not be whitewashed.”

Leonatti targeted four books, two of which are being used in Norwin schools — “Modern World History” at the high school and “My World History” in seventh grade. “The American Vision” and “Give Me Liberty!” are under consideration for future use and can be reviewed at the Norwin administration office.

The district said a pastor is reviewing the books. Board president Robert Perkins said that pastor is an unpaid consultant who may finish his review by next month.

School director Dennis J. Rittenhouse questioned why Leonatti wasn’t appealing to the books’ publishers.

“The publishers have economic concerns,” Leonatti said. “The only way we can influence them is for districts to say, ‘No, thank you, we’re not buying them.’”

School director Jerry O’Donnell said he attends a Penn Township church and has relatives in Yough schools. He questioned why Leonatti wasn’t taking his case to those districts.

“You must be a resident to address the issue (to other districts),” Leonatti replied, adding that “the errors, the indoctrination are consistent everywhere.”

Leonatti was accompanied by Fran Bevan of North Huntingdon, Pittsburgh area vice president of Pennsylvania Eagle Forum.

She gave board members copies of an Eagle Forum publication quoting the nonprofit group ACT! for America as saying portrayals of Islamic history in “several dozen” secondary school textbooks “are enormously misleading.”

The publication also alleged that Saudi Arabia is backing such portrayals. Leonatti told the board that Saudi Arabia has invested $150 billion in oil money in U.S. public education.

“We need the knowledge, but we do not need politically correct knowledge,” Leonatti said.

Leonatti said he has experience as a teacher, including three years at old Duquesne High School and seven in Dayton, Ohio.

Leonatti today is pastor of a church affiliated with a denomination once known as the Norwegian Synod. He said it is not affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which has several parishes in the Norwin area.