July 2002 Issue #88
Help Stop Religious Right Censorship of Textbooks
The last time the State Board of Education (SBE) reviewed social studies textbooks, Texas Eagle Forum members testified that slavery was portrayed “too negatively” in one history text. Religious right groups tried to censor a picture of a woman with two children carrying a briefcase because women in the workplace ran counter to their idea of “family values” and tried to eliminate books they thought had “too many” pictures of minorities.
As we reported last month, some religious right groups are recruiting people to review textbooks and testify at SBE hearings this summer and fall about alleged “factual errors” and “anti-Christian” or “liberal” bias. The Texas Freedom Network (TFN) has launched a campaign to stop this censorship. TFN is a statewide group that, like Let Freedom Ring, aims to counter the religious right.
TFN seeks volunteers to:
This process has nationwide repercussions. Since Texas is the nation’s second biggest buyer of textbooks, publishers have a great incentive to appease the religious right so their books are not challenged here. Some have resorted to self-censorship and some have revised drafts submitted to the religious right for pre-approval. The revised books will be sold in other states.
If you are interested in joining this campaign or want more information about it or if you want us to send a postcard in your name, contact Let Freedom Ring at 713-461-3686 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Houston Conference on Religious Fundamentalism
A conference on “Fundamentalism: Myths and Methods” will be held in Houston on August 19. It will be hosted by Texas Faith Network (an affiliate of the Texas Freedom Network) in partnership with Let Freedom Ring and other groups. Karen Armstrong, internationally acclaimed expert on religious fundamentalism and award-winning author of The Battle for God and Islam, will deliver the keynote address that evening. During the day, panels of national and local experts will discuss the history and common traits of religious fundamentalism in Christian, Jewish and Islamic religious traditions. There will be opportunities to voice your experiences and opinions in focus groups and workshops.
With this conference, TFN is launching its Fundamentalism Education Project. This project aims to equip clergy and laity with information about the truths and myths of religious fundamentalism. The project will continue after the conference with public education efforts, including an adult study curriculum, an extensive bibliography, editorial board visits, and special resources for clergy.
The conference will be at South Main Baptist Church, 4100 Main. To register, call 512-322-0545 or visit tfn.org. We will publish more details in next month’s newsletter and on our web site.
State Parties Adopt Platforms
With Provisions on Religion
Both major state parties adopted platforms with provisions about religion.
Those provisions are.
From the Republican Party of Texas platform:
From the Texas Democratic Party platform:
We believe --
The Texas Democratic Party endorses the religious freedoms guaranteed by the state and federal Constitutions and calls upon government to scrupulously honor every Texan's right to religious freedom while respecting the separation of church and state. Many Democrats hold political views that are motivated by deeply held personal beliefs. No political party and no extremist group hold an exclusive lock on such beliefs. We recognize the importance of religion and prayer in the lives of Texans and support every individual's right to practice his or her own beliefs without imposing them on others, including the recognized right of public school students to a "moment of silence."
Impact of Supreme Court
Voucher Ruling Uncertain
State elected officials and vouchers activists are divided about the impact in Texas of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that Ohio’s vouchers plan does not violate the Establishment Clause. A spokesperson for House Speaker Pete Laney, a strong critic of vouchers, and Sen. Teel Bivins, who as chair of the Senate Education Committee has tried to pass a pilot voucher program, both indicated they do not think the decision will affect the Texas debate. Rep. Ron Wilson of Houston, who has offered vouchers legislation before and said he will again in 2003, thinks it will offer a lot of momentum for those who want vouchers here.
Some think the general election and the Texas House’s election of its speaker could determine the outcome of the debate. Rep. Tom Craddick who could unseat Laney as speaker, favors vouchers. Gov. Perry favors vouchers, while his Democratic challenger Tony Sanchez has vowed to veto a vouchers bill. GOP lieutenant governor candidate David Dewhurst supports a vouchers plan; Democrat John Sharp does not.
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