A Board Divided by Faith or Contempt?

We have heard the Texas State Board of Education‘s far-right members claim over and over again that they are unfairly attacked for their fundamentalist religious views. They do so even as they seek to inject those narrow views into curriculum standards for our state’s public schools, whether it’s by promoting creationist arguments against evolution or objecting to students learning how the Constitution bars government from promoting (or disfavoring) one religion over all others. And often their own words betray a disregard for others — including other people of faith — who don’t share their particular religious views. New case in point: Don McLeroy statements on a PBS program last week.

Speaking on the PBS program Religion and Ethics Newsweekly last Friday (April 30), the College Station Republican talked about how he thinks different board members deal with recommendations they get from educators, curriculum specialists and scholars:

“Conservatives on our board are the only ones—the Christian conservatives—that are able to sit there and to think for themselves and say, well, wait. Is this really good policy? Should we just trust what’s being brought to us? Should we just rubber-stamp it?”

At first blush, this comment sounds similar to McLeroy’s infamous declaration last year that “somebody’s gotta stand up to experts!” But that only reveals his contempt for facts and real expertise. What is perhaps more disturbing here is his contempt for people who don’t share his fundamentalist religious views. In fact, he seems to believe that only “Christian conservatives” really understand the truth in the controversies that plague the board (controversies McLeroy and his far-right colleagues have created themselves).

It’s only “Christian conservatives” who “are able to sit there and to think for themselves”? Really? All the other board members, Democrats or Republicans, just want to “rubber-stamp” what experts are telling them? And if board members shouldn’t listen to classroom teachers and scholars — real experts — who should they listen to for reliable information? People pushing ideological agendas?

Last year during the debate over science curriculum standards in Texas, the religious right — including some board members — repeatedly attacked the faith and morals of people who want to teach that evolution is accepted, mainstream science. (See here and here for examples.) During the same debate, McLeroy endorsed a book that said parents who want to teach their children about evolution are “monsters.” And in 2005, McLeroy suggested in a church lecture that opposition to evolution is a prerequisite for being a real Christian. Here’s what he said during that lecture when he noted the state board’s debate over proposed new biology textbooks two years earlier:

“(T)he four really conservative, orthodox Christians on the board were the only ones who were willing to stand up to the textbooks and say that they don’t present the weaknesses of evolution.”

Apparently, he thinks all the other board members were “unorthodox” Christians.

When the Texas Senate last year refused to confirm McLeroy’s nomination for a second term as state board chairman, his supporters disingenuously claimed that McLeroy was being persecuted for his Christian beliefs. McLeroy himself has made similar statements since then. Yet here we are, once again listening to him dismiss those who don’t share his narrow religious views. Is it any wonder that other people of faith — never mind people who practice no religion — are appalled when they watch this state board at work?

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6 Comments

  1. David
    Posted May 7, 2010 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

    I took logic in the early ’70′s, when that wasn’t really the main thing on my mind. So I may have forgotten some of the terms.
    These days I usually use the term hooey.
    However, between the ease of finding stuff to learn or relearn, on the internet, and this whole issue of ignorance vs knowledge, I’ve been trying to dust out the cobwebs and re-organize the attic, you might say.
    Thanks for the info.

  2. abb3w
    Posted May 7, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    David: Don, that’s what they call “starting from a false premise” in logic, I think. Regardless of the soundness of the logic, any conclusions that come from it is false.

    The conclusions are invalid, not false. EG:
    - I just ate an apple.
    - An apple is something.
    - When I have just eaten something, I am not hungry
    - Therefore, I am not hungry.

    The final conclusion may be true (but invalidly reached) if the first premise is false and instead of an apple, I ate a grilled cheese sandwich.

    This, however, isn’t a particularly important digression.

  3. David
    Posted May 5, 2010 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    http://blogs.alternet.org/perrybulwer/2010/05/04/the-cult-with-no-name/

    Reading this article about a Christian cult that claims that it is the only path to God, and has been implicated in a couple of child molestation cases (no it’s not the Catholic church), I was struck by the similarity to Don McLeroy’s assertions.

    I would like to hear him answer the question of whether he’s a member of the “Two-by-twos”.

  4. Posted May 4, 2010 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    Little Lord McLeroy shows again how much he idolizes himself. Also, I am reminded of Aesop’s “Dog in the Manger”. The BLZ’s on the board don’t seem to want to send their children to public schools, but are willing to subvert the the education of those who depend on public schools. They don’t point to any demonstrable liberal bias in the standards produced by the qualified educators and experts, but that doesn’t stop them from inserting garbage that sounds “conservative” to them. Well, the principled Republicans have defeated Little Lord McLeroy and Cynthia Dunbar’s annointed favorite in the primaries. This should give them something to think about. However, I expect them to keep playing “Dog in the Manger” by continuing to try to subvert the sound educational standards produced by the experts. What pathetic and selfish little minds.

  5. Charles
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    I wish Texas citizens in general would just listen more closely. The Christian Neo-Fundamentalists believe they are the only “true” Christians. Everyone else in the Christian community is just a pretender—someone who is standing in the way of their exclusively-held truth. If they count you as such, you are counted as an enemy of Christ. This bizarre fruitcake truth of theirs has been welded so tightly with extremist right wing Republican politics that it is hard to tell where one leaves off and the other begins. When I say “bizarre fruitcake truth,” I am not talking about Jesus or the gospel. Jesus and the gospel are great!!! I am talking about the rest of the Christian Neo-Fundamentalist package and all of the craziness associated with it—the part that is an embarrassment to the Christian faith and the gospel. I am talking about a brand of belief and behavior that actually drives people away from the Christian faith rather than pulling people towards it. No citizen wants to come to Jesus when the people beckoning them are a bunch of certifiable loons.

    Wake up Texas!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. David
    Posted May 4, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    Don, that’s what they call “starting from a false premise” in logic, I think. Regardless of the soundness of the logic, any conclusions that come from it is false.

    The megalomania doesn’t help your cause, Don.

    At any rate, you’ll go down in history as the William B. Travis of the radical religious right’s Alamo.
    The fight is over.
    All that’s left is the involuntary thrashing about of the headless viper of ignorance.

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