Let’s play fill in the blank. Check out the following quotes from two Texas legislators about the potential mingling of public funds and a religious doctrine. The first is by state Rep. Sid Miller, R-Stephenville, followed by state Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center. See if you can guess what religion they’re railing against.
“Apparently it’s (involved in) indoctrination of _____.”
“If it’s true — and I don’t know that it is — if they’re teaching _____, that’s a problem.”
Have a guess? Here’s a clue: it isn’t Christianity.
No, the two quotes are focused on Islam. It’s not a surprise that those quotes came from two far-right Texas lawmakers who don’t seem as concerned about the First Amendment implications as much as they are with the religion in question. Their comments got us thinking: if the missing word were “Christianity,” would it still be, as Rep. Christian put it, “a problem”? We’re thinking the answer is “no.”
Separation of religion and state? Depends on which religion is involved, the two legislators seem to be saying.
The quotes come from an Austin America-Statesman article on Texas legislators taking all-expense paid trips to Turkey courtesy of Turkish American groups operating under the umbrella of the Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians. The crux of the article is lawmakers’ unease with taking any future such trips due to a separate recent New York Times article that suggested connections between the Turquoise Council and charter schools operator Harmony Schools.
In other words, most lawmakers are uneasy with accepting paid trips from an outfit with connections to a company that does business with the state. We say most because Rep. Miller and Rep. Christian seem to be not as much concerned with the potential conflict of interest as they are uneasy with the fact that Turkey is a primarily Muslim country and, as the Statesman story points out, the suggestion by some conservative bloggers that Harmony Schools promotes Islam.
Which brings us back to our earlier question: what if the missing word were Christianity?
To be clear, TFN argues that public schools, including charter schools, have no business promoting ANY particular religious doctrine — including Islam or Christianity. We’re almost certain Reps. Miller and Christian are with us on that — so long as the doctrine is anything other than Christianity.
In Rep. Christian’s case we’re talking about a lawmaker who has also been an activist for the Christian Coalition and Promise Keepers, and treats the separation of church and state as more a suggestion rather than a principle enshrined in the First Amendment of the U.S Constitution. He also has never met a culture war battle he didn’t like. (See here, here and here.)
As for Rep. Miller, as recently as this past Texas legislative regular and special sessions he’s submitted proposals for so-called “Taxpayer Savings Grants” — really just a misleading term for a school voucher scheme designed to funnel tax dollars to religiously affiliated schools.
We’ll point out one more thing about Rep. Miller in relation to this story. In addition to the above comment, the lawmaker had this to say about Turkey being a moderate Muslim nation:
“That just means they’re nonviolent. They won’t cut off your head.”
Presenting a widely practiced faith as simplistically as either “they’ll kill you or they won’t,” does nothing but stoke hysteria.