The header above is from the subject line of a wild-eyed screed sent circulating around the Internets this past weekend by Donna Garner, a former language arts teacher in Central Texas. Social conservatives on the Texas State Board of Education seem to think Ms. Garner is some kind of curriculum guru. (Never mind that most other folks see her as little more than a right-wing gadfly with an e-mail list.)
Last year Ms. Garner helped the board’s far-right faction (led by board chairman Don McLeroy) derail a more than two-year process revising the state’s language arts curriculum standards. (See here and here.) Now she seems to have turned her attention to evolution and proposed science curriculum standards. The e-mail criticizes the state board for giving tentative approval last month to new standards that don’t require students to learn phony “weaknesses” of evolution. It mocks three Republican board members, in particular, each of whom voted to keep the “weaknesses” requirement out of the standards. They “all claim to be conservative Republicans,” the e-mail sneeringly states. One of the three, Bob Craig of Lubbock, the e-mail notes, “says he’s a ‘strong Christian.’” And on it goes. (Will any of Ms. Garner’s far-right friends on the board denounce these snide remarks about their fellow board members? We’re not holding our breath.)
Ms. Garner also pretends to know something about science, going on about the difference between “micro-evolution” and “macro-evolution” and listing “weaknesses” of evolution (the Cambrian explosion, gaps in the fossil record, yadda yadda yadda). It’s all standard pseudoscientific mumbo jumbo that evolution deniers have been using to try to water down science education in our kids’ classrooms.
But the real kicker comes at the end, when the depth of loathing for evolution and science becomes crystal clear:
Jeffrey Dahmer, one of America’s most infamous serial killers who cannibalized more than 17 boys before being captured, gave an [sic] last interview with Dateline NBC nine months before his death, and he said the following about why he acted as he did: “If a person doesn’t think that there is a God to be accountable to, then what’s the point of trying to modify your behavior to keep it within acceptable ranges? That’s how I thought anyway. I always believed the theory of evolution as truth, that we all just came from the slime. When we died, you know, that was it, there was nothing….” (Dateline NBC, The Final Interview, Nov. 29, 1994).
This quote has been making the rounds for years in evangelical circles. In fact, Dahmer seems to have proclaimed himself a born-again Christian after his father sent him evangelical materials in prison.
In any case, the e-mail clearly suggests that people who accept the science of evolution are atheists: “The atheists are winning in Texas.” That’s insulting enough for people of faith who see no conflict with science. But what else is Ms. Garner trying to say here with the story about Dahmer? That we’re responsible for serial murderers like him? Or worse, that we’re all potential cannibalistic murderers ourselves because we accept the science of evolution?
Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place, and science leads you to killing people.
It’s time for Chairman McLeroy and his fellow board members to come clean. Do they agree with Ms. Garner and approve of the kind of repulsive and shameful rhetoric being used to attack those who don’t share her particular religious views? We really want to know.
UPDATE: Correction. Ms. Garner forwarded the original e-mail referenced above, with her own apparent additions marked in red (including the quote from Dahmer). Who signed and apparently wrote the original? Kelly Coghlan, a Houston attorney who wrote the so-called “Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act” that the Texas Legislature passed in 2007. That legislation, HB 3678, allows students to turn public school events into opportunities to evangelize. Read more about it here and here. Coghlan’s e-mail includes information and links from the creationist Texans for Better Science Education. In any case, whether or not Garner wrote the original e-mail, she amended and forwarded it to her list. Now what do board members have to say?
UPDATE II: Donna Garner’s e-mail is here.