Each of the four candidates seeking the Republican nomination for Texas lieutenant governor raced as far to the extreme right as they could during their debate Monday night. Each one, for example, expressed support for banning abortion even in cases of rape or incest. Each one insisted that government should intrude into the end-of-life decisions families make for their loved ones who are brain dead. And each one insisted that public schools be put in the position of deciding whose religious beliefs about creation should be taught in their classrooms.
On the issue of creationism, disregard for now the fact that the four candidates were supporting something that would get the state’s cash-strapped public schools sued for violating the U.S. Constitution. The candidates would also create an impossibly difficult dilemma for public schools. Should those schools teach students that Earth is 6,000-years-old and that humans walked the land with dinosaurs? Should they teach competing religious beliefs about creation? Or should they simply leave, as they do now, religious instruction to families and congregations while focusing instead on teaching students established, mainstream science that prepares them to succeed in college and the jobs of the 21st century?
Just as appalling was the suggestion in the candidates’ answers that Christianity is somehow under attack because public schools in this country can’t promote or favor any particular religious perspective over all others. Frankly, Christians and other people of faith should be disgusted that some politicians think their votes can be purchased so cheaply and cynically.
Here are excerpts from each of the candidate’s answers on teaching creationism in public schools.
Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, calling on public schools to teach creationism alongside evolution:
“Our children should be armed with more knowledge, not less. And that would include creationism, intelligent design, evolution. And let the parents and the ministers then decide which of those should prevail in that child’s life. That’s not a decision for the schools.”
Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, cynically suggesting that the issue is really about people being forced to hide their faith:
“I don’t think we need to live in a state where we have to apologize for being a Christian. … It [creationism] is something most Texans believe in, and our children should be exposed to this, and we shouldn’t have to hide from it.”
State Sen. Dan Patrick, falsely suggesting that students must leave their faith at the schoolhouse door:
“Our children must be really be confused. We want them to go to church on Sunday, and we teach them about Jesus Christ. And then they go to school on Monday. They can’t pray. They can’t learn about creationism. They must really be confused. And they have a right to be confused because we as Christians have yielded to the secular left and let them rule the day in this country. … When it comes to creationism, not only should it be taught, it should be triumphed. It should be heralded.”
Incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, arguing that the issue is one of fairness:
“I understand that it [creationism] alone cannot be taught. And I am fine with teaching creationism, intelligent design and evolution. And then let the students with advice and counsel and the love of their parents decide for themselves which one of the three that they believe in. I think that’s the fairest way and all three should be taught.”