We thought it was revealing that Texas Values, the lobby arm of the Plano-based religious-right group Liberty Institute, was mostly AWOL during the science textbook battle at the State Board of Education (SBOE) this year. It turns out that the group prefers to scare its members with myths and fantasies rather than work on serious issues — even issues that once dominated its time.
Four years ago the group’s chief lobbyist in Austin was a regular presence at SBOE debates over the revision of science curriculum standards. He portrayed those debates as critical to the future of science education even as his anti-evolution group argued for standards based on junk science. The group hailed the SBOE’s 2009 approval of flawed science standards that creationists hoped would force publishers to water down instruction on evolution and climate change in their new textbooks.
But since publishers submitted their new textbooks for adoption this past April, the Texas Values blog hasn’t said a word about it. The group sent a staff member to testify at an SBOE hearing about the textbooks in September, but its blog and emails to members have yet to mention the board’s final vote in November to adopt the textbooks — textbooks that teach established, mainstream science on evolution and climate change.
Perhaps the folks at Texas Values realized they were backing a losing cause and didn’t want to be associated with it. So instead of telling its members about their failure to corrupt the state’s new science textbooks, the group has been pushing an old standby — the mythical “war on Christmas” that religious-right groups claim is raging across America. Here’s an excerpt from a typically hyperbolic email Texas Values sent out the day after Thanksgiving:
No student in Texas should fear talking about Christmas at school or exercising their most basic religious liberty rights. Ever!
But sadly over the last few years, we have seen a growing level of hostility and mistreatment of Christmas in the public square and in our schools. Led by secularists, atheists, and taxpayer funded lawyers, and bowing at the altar of political correctness, the attacks on Christmas have increased to unprecedented levels.
Make no mistake — the War on Christmas is a key front in the radical movement to remove all religious expression from the public square. And ground zero for this battle has been public schools across the U.S., including right here in Texas.
You see, the battle in our schools is the battle for the future of Texas. The other side knows if they can remove all religious expression from our schools, they can indoctrinate the future generation of Texans to their worldview that has no place for God.
This ridiculous email goes on to beg readers to make a “generous donation” to help Texas Values defend Christmas. Seriously. The group’s email writers must think their readers are suckers.
Does anyone really believe that Texas schools are overrun with militant atheist teachers and principals trying to destroy Christmas? The vast majority of Texans celebrate the holiday and are open about its significance to their religious faith. Walk through just about any neighborhood in the state in December and you’ll find house after house — including the homes of teachers and principals — decorated for Christmas. Christmas lights and other decorations brighten city streets and public buildings across the state, and public offices (including schools) close for the holiday. And, of course, churches are packed on Christmas Day itself.
The truth is that the celebration of Christmas — and religious freedom, generally — thrives in Texas. But groups like Texas Values trot out the familiar nonsense about a “war on Christmas” every year. They hope to scare money out of the pockets and purses of their gullible supporters. But this year they’re also hoping their “defense” of Christmas will hide their failure to undermine the science education of millions of Texas students.