Texas Isn’t the Only State Where the Right Is Pushing Indoctrination Instead of Education in Public Schools

Members of the Texas State Board of Education aren’t the only politicians pushing the national campaign to turn public schools into tools for indoctrinating students with right-wing ideology. A columnist for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel looks at how that campaign is unfolding in other states.

In Florida, for example, lawmakers are pushing a bill that would require high school students to watch a film about America written by and starring conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza. D’Souza is the author of numerous diatribes — in columns, books and film — that essentially describe President Obama as a Marxist out to destroy America.

Even fellow conservatives have labeled these claims by D’Souza as ridiculous. But now some Florida lawmakers want to force students in their state to watch a film from the same incendiary propagandist. (D’Souza, by the way, is also a law-breaker. He was fined and sentenced to eight months in a community confinement center last September after admitting that he deliberately violated U.S. campaign finance law.)

The Sun-Sentinel columnist, Rhonda Swan, explains how those Florida lawmakers are tied to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). That right-wing group has in other states been pushing similar legislation that would require students to learn a sanitized and distorted version of American history. Here’s how Swan describes one part of the campaign:

[ALEC] wrote the Founding Principles Act, a bill the North Carolina legislature passed that requires high school students to pass a course on the founding principles of government. Earlier this month, North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction made a proposal to “highly recommend” the curriculum include material from the Bill of Rights Institute. The conservative Koch family, billionaires who finance an extensive political network, fund the institute.

Criticism of the institute’s social studies material mirrors that of the [D’Souza] movie: they seek to sanitize American history, downplaying the negative consequences of capitalism and the country’s mistreatment of people of color and the poor.

“D’Souza gives the impression,” Variety said in its movie review, “of someone obsessed with whitewashing any and all dark chapters in U.S. history books.”

It’s as if conservatives can’t handle the truth.

Swan also notes the textbook battles at the Texas State Board of Education, and she explains why the right-wing campaign to politicize public education is dangerous:

Students go to school to learn how to think for themselves. They do that by learning the facts — good and bad. Not by getting a partisan spin — liberal, conservative or otherwise — on those facts.

There is a reason educators, not politicians, design curricula. Lawmakers should leave the teaching to the experts.

If only it were true that politicians weren’t in the business of designing curricula. We’ve seen politicians on the State Board of Education rewrite curriculum standards for Texas public schools and then pressure publishers to make sure their textbooks conform to those politicized standards. That’s why we now have history textbooks that teach Texas students how Moses was a major influence on the writing of the U.S. Constitution — even though scholars across the country have denounced such a claim as nonsense.

You can read Swan’s column here.

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The Reason for the Season?


We suppose nothing says “Jesus is the reason for the season” better than a photo of … uh … Santa Claus.

It’s amusing how the Austin-based, religious-right group Texas Values is promoting the so-called “Merry Christmas Law” it helped pass last year. The group says the law protects religious freedom. And this month it held a press conference to highlight the law with a couple of legislators and Santa Claus. Yeah, nothing says “putting the Christ in Christmas” more than a fat man in a red suit standing next to politicians. Ho ho ho.

The law says school district employees and students can wish each other Merry Christmas (or any other holiday greeting they like) at school. Of course, the First Amendment has protected that right for well over 200 years, and the rare and misguided attempts to prevent such greetings get swatted down pretty quickly by the courts. But cynical groups like Texas Values know one good way to raise money is to persuade Christians — who make up the vast majority of the population in this country and celebrate Christmas openly and publicly, along with countless businesses and public entities — that the mythical “war on Christmas” is real and that they are being persecuted.

Well, we wish the folks at Texas Values a warm Merry Christmas. Or if any of them are Jewish, Hanukkah Sameach. And to everyone, whatever your faith or tradition, whether you celebrate any religious or cultural holidays or just the New Year, Happy Holidays!

Posted in TFNEF, war on Christmas nonsense | 5 Comments

The Week in Quotes (Dec. 7 – 13)

Here are some of the week’s most notable quotes culled from news reports from across Texas, and beyond.

continue reading »

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Texas Pastor: ‘Dirty Faggots’ Want to Rape Your Kids

Remember our post about the hateful Arizona preacher who insists that the cure for AIDS is to execute gay people? It turns out that he has “ordained” Donnie Romero, a preacher at Stedfast Baptist Church in Fort Worth. The two are like peas in a pod, apparently. Our friends at Right Wing Watch have a clip from a recent sermon by Romero:

“I’m not going to let any of these dirty faggots inside my church. … They are all pedophiles. … They’re always trying to rape and hurt other people. They’re relentless. They are relentless. They are predators and given an opportunity to snatch one of your children, they would do it in a heartbeat.”

We can’t defeat hate by ignoring it. It’s important to drag it into the sunlight for all to see.

UPDATE: Romero also preaches anti-Catholic bigotry. From another of his sermons:

“The Roman Catholic Church is a false religion. … They’re leading people astray. The pope is a wicked man. He’s gonna burn in hell. He’s a false prophet. … I believe the Catholic church is wicked. It’s out of hell.”

Posted in LGBT issues, TFNEF | 2 Comments

Texas Lawmaker: Discrimination Is Over, End Protections for Women and Minorities

The religious right rallied anti-equality activists to a Plano City Council hearing on Monday, in what was ultimately an unsuccessful attempt to persuade city leaders to table a proposal to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city’s existing non-discrimination ordinance. The proposal passed by a 5-3 vote.

But before the vote, Collin County Commissioner and state Rep.-elect Matt Shaheen, R-Plano, had an interesting take on why the council should reject the ordinance. Shaheen pointed to his own election, then pointed to the fact that Plano and the country both elected African Americans to lead them as an argument not only to deny LGBT individuals discrimination protections, but also as an argument for stripping women, African Americans and other minorities of existing protections.

In the age of 9/11, you have a Middle-Eastern man standing before you that has been elected three different times to represent a predominantly white community, two times overwhelmingly … The president of the United States and the mayor of Plano are African American. What I would suggest you do as a city council is not look at this ordinance and look at classes to expand to, I think as a city council you ought to look to see if there’s items you can remove.

We can all go home, y’all. Shaheen says discrimination is over.


Posted in LGBT issues, TFNEF | 2 Comments

Religious-Righters Threaten to Sue Plano for Right to Discriminate

Plano on Monday joined the growing list of cities across Texas with ordinances prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity as well as other characteristics like sex, race, religion and military status. Predictably, religious-righters are angry that they might be stopped from firing, evicting or denying public services to people they don’t like — especially gay or transgendered people.

Dave Welch, executive director of the right-wing Houston Area Pastor Council, sent a particularly offensive email to the Plano City Council. (HAPC is also trying to overturn the the Equal Rights Ordinance passed by the Houston City Council in May.) In his email on Monday, Welch trots out the tired (and discredited) scare tactic about “biological males” using women’s restrooms. He sneeringly refers to LGBT people as the “sexually and gender confused.” He even claims that LGBT people don’t face discrimination:

“On behalf of our ethnic minority pastors we openly challenge the deceptive and offensive use of these ordinances as a ‘Trojan Horse’ for those with an agenda to hijack the Civil Rights movement use the power of public policy and force acceptance of their sexual behavior and gender confusion on the rest of society. Let us make this clear – there is NO DOCUMENTABLE evidence of class or even legitimate anecdotal discrimination against the tiny LGBTQ population.”

It’s impossible to treat as credible someone who says such ignorant and twisted nonsense. After all, Welch himself is promoting the right to engage in something he claims doesn’t exist — discrimination again LGBT people.

The Austin-based, anti-gay lobby group Texas Values also sent out an email on Monday calling the anti-discrimination measure in Plano “dangerous and divisive.” It also trotted out the absurd scare tactic about men using women’s restrooms:

“[T]he ordinance does not specifically protect women and children against men using women’s bathrooms.”

Liberty Institute, the Plano-based litigation group that birthed Texas Values, sent an email to the City Council warning that it will sue:

“If the Proposed Ordinance is enacted, Liberty Institute will be forced to take legal action against the city to fight such a blatant attack on the religious liberty rights of the residents of the City of Plano.”

That’s right: they’ll go to court to defend the right to fire law-abiding people or toss them out on the street simply because of who they are. Jesus’ command to love one another? They say: “Nevermind!”

Good on the Plano City Council for doing the right thing: taking a stand for equality and against discrimination.

Posted in LGBT issues, Liberty Institute, Texas Values, TFNEF | 3 Comments

Exporting Hate

The Houston Area Pastor Council/Texas Pastor Council isn’t satisfied with trying to repeal Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). Now the extremists at HAPC are working to defeat similar anti-discrimination measures in other cities, like Fayetteville, Arkansas.

The Houston City Council passed HERO last spring, barring discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, race, religion, military status and other characteristics. HAPC calls the measure’s protections for LGBT people (as well as a similar measure passed last year in San Antonio) an “atrocity” supported by “the enemies of God.” The religious-right group is suing in court to get repeal put to a citywide vote.

The Fayetteville City Council, on a 6-2 vote, passed similar protections in August. Voters there will decide whether to repeal it tomorrow (December 9). HAPC’s leaders have traveled to Fayetteville and are asking the group’s members to provide prayers and other support to anti-gay activists in Arkansas. From an HAPC email to activists yesterday:

“Fayetteville is the first opportunity in the nation to repeal one of these terrible ordinances that assault the laws of God, basic decency and public safety as well as the U.S. Constitution.”

That’s right. Discrimination is good because God wants it, or so say the extremists at HAPC — who refer to Houston’s Mayor Parker as a “sodomite” leading a “gay takeover” of the city. (One prominent HERO opponent has even admitted that she believes people should be able to discriminate against almost anyone, including Jews, for religious reasons.)

Fortunately, many religious leaders and others in Houston have made clear that their faith calls on them to stand for equality and oppose discrimination. People of faith are also speaking out for equality in Fayetteville and elsewhere. There will be setbacks along the way, but the tide of history is turning toward equality for all.

Posted in LGBT issues, TFNEF | 2 Comments

The Week in Quotes (Nov. 23 – Dec. 6)

Here are some of the week’s most notable quotes culled from news reports from across Texas, and beyond.

continue reading »

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Feel the Hate: Pastor Says Executing Gay People Is the Cure for AIDS

“Turn to Leviticus 20:13 because I actually discovered the cure for AIDS, OK? Now, this is the cure for AIDS, OK? And you know, everybody’s talking about ‘let’s have an AIDS-free world by 2020,’ or ‘let’s have an AIDS-free…’ Look, we can have an AIDS-free world by Christmas. You know. OK, it wouldn’t be totally AIDS-free. But we’d be like be 90-something percent AIDS-free by Christmas if we follow this. Here’s what the Bible says, Leviticus 20:13: If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, OK, it’s says even both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them. And that, my friend, is the cure for AIDS. It was right there in the Bible all along and they’re out spending billions of dollars in research and testing. It’s curable — right there. Because if you executed the homos like God recommends, you wouldn’t have all this AIDS running rampant.”

That’s pastor Steven Anderson, preaching early this week at his Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona. Anderson also screamed that all gay people are pedophiles and that they would never be welcome in his church:

“No queers allowed in this church…. No homos will ever be allowed on this church as long as I’m the pastor here. Never!”

His sermon was answered with laughter and approval.

(H/T: with more video from the sermon, Raw Story)

Posted in LGBT issues, Steven Anderson, TFNEF | 5 Comments

Public School District Decides Against Controversial Bible Curriculum Reviewed by TFN Education Fund Scholar

Following months of controversy, an Oklahoma school district has announced that it will not implement a new Bible curriculum that was the subject of a scathing report from the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund this past June.

Museum of the Bible, a nonprofit created by Steve Green, president of the Oklahoma City-based retailer Hobby Lobby, is publishing the curriculum — The Book: The Bible’s History, Narrative and Impact. Public schools in Mustang, near Oklahoma City, had planned to teach a pilot version of the curriculum this fall. But the school district delayed implementation of the course after the release of the TFN Education Fund report by Mark Chancey. Chancey is a professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University in Dallas and a leading authority on how public schools teach about the Bible. The report revealed serious problems with the new curriculum, including factual inaccuracies as well as material that raised questions about whether its use in public schools would be constitutional.

According to Religion News Service, last week the Mustang schools superintendent, Sean McDaniel, sent an email informing the Freedom from Religion Foundation and Americans United for Separation of Church and State that the district has decided not to move forward with the course: “In summary, the topic of a Bible course in the Mustang School District is no longer a discussion item nor is there a plan to provide such a course in the foreseeable future.”

McDaniel said the curriculum’s publisher  would not agree to give the district the ability to review the final curriculum or “to provide legal coverage to the district” in case of a lawsuit. Sounds to us like the district acted responsibly to protect local taxpayers as well as the religious freedom of students and their families.

Predictably, religious-righters are upset. One News Now, the propaganda arm of the anti-gay hate group American Family Association, told readers that the Mustang school district had “caved” to “anti-Christian groups” that opposed implementation of the curriculum in public schools. The article specifically named the Freedom from Religion Foundation, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the American Civil Liberties Union. None of those groups is anti-Christian.

Chancey’s report for the TFN Education Fund, published on June 3, revealed how the curriculum suggested the Bible is literally and historically accurate, promoted faith claims as fact, and advanced a sectarian view of the Bible generally favored by fundamentalist Protestants but not people from other faith traditions. Moreover, factual errors and idiosyncrasies in the curriculum betrayed a seriously flawed knowledge of the subject. For example, the curriculum treated Adam and Eve as actual historical figures, suggested that Einstein’s Theory of Relativity provides evidence for the Creation told in Genesis, and bizarrely compared the Book of Exodus to the infamously racist, KKK-glorifying film The Birth of a Nation.

Chancey’s report and his earlier reports on public school Bible courses for the TFN Education Fund are here.


Posted in Bible in schools, Steve Green, TFNEF | 6 Comments