June 2002 Issue #87
School Textbook Review Gets Under Way
The review of history, geography, social studies, and economics textbooks that will be used by Texas middle and high school students is under way. Expect another ideological battle. Some groups that have challenged textbooks in the past as being anti-American, anti-Christian, or having a liberal bias have coalesced as the Working Partners for Textbook Review. Concerned Women of America, Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy, Texas Eagle Forum, and Texas Justice Foundation are among its members. They assert that their objective is to review books for factual errors, yet they acknowledge that they are looking for an “anti-freedom and liberal agenda” and other objectionable content. The group has created a packet about the review process that has useful information for anyone wanting to review the books. It is online at cse.org/informed/issues_template.php?issue_id=962. The State Board of Education will hold public hearings on the books in Austin on July 17, August 23, and September 11 and will vote on the books in November. The books being considered can be viewed and checked out in Houston at Region 4 Education Service Center, 7145 West Tidwell, 77092, 713-462-7708. Texans can file written comments and requests to testify at any of the hearings. They should be mailed to the Division of Textbook Administration, Texas Education Agency, 1701 N. Congress Ave Room 3-110, Austin, TX 78701 by 5:00 p.m. 7 days before the hearing in question.
Religious Right Agenda In Congress
A House subcommittee held a hearing on two bills designed to enable houses of worship to participate in partisan politics without endangering their tax-exempt status. The Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act (H.R.2357) would amend the tax code to allow engagement in political campaigns. The Bright-Line Act of 2001 (H.R.2931) would allow participation in campaigns and lobbying. Under both bills, such activities could not be a “substantial part” of the group’s overall activities and expenditures.
Religious right groups testified that the bills would restore their free speech right. Opponents warned of congregations dividing along political lines, clergy becoming political operatives, and the spiritual authority of clergy waning. They also noted that secular non-profit groups would still be barred from such activities. The bills are seen as attempts to boost the religious right’s get-out-the-vote efforts and revive the movement that helped the GOP gain power.
The religious right strongly oppose the bipartisan hate crimes prevention bill being debated in the Senate. The Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act (S.625) would expand federal protection to include violent acts motivated by a victim’s real or perceived sexual orientation, gender, or disability and to protect all individuals, not just those engaged in federally protected activities like voting or serving on a jury. The religious right charge that it would advance “the homosexual agenda,” skew the allocation of law enforcement resources to “politically correct” crimes, and threaten freedom of speech, religion and assembly, as Biblical views would be treated as “hate speech” that incites violence. Supporters say the law is needed to supplement state and local authorities that cannot or do not act.
The House voted to extend funding abstinence-only sexuality education for 5 years and to award states up to $500,000,000 for developing and implementing programs to promote and support married, 2-parent families. The provisions were in the welfare reform bill, known as Personal Responsibility, Work and Family Promotion Act of 2002 (H.R.4737). The Senate is expected to consider a welfare reauthorization bill soon. Programs that stress abstinence but also teach about contraception and prevention of sexually transmitted disease do not receive federal funding.
Bills to prohibit cloning are still awaiting a Senate vote. The Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2001 (S.1899), introduced by Sen. Brownback, would prohibit human cloning. It passed the House last year. The Human Cloning Prohibition Act of 2002 (S.2439), introduced by Sen. Specter, would ban human cloning while preserving important areas of medical research, including stem cell research. Religious right groups say they oppose cloning and stem cell research because they destroy human life, but the Family Research Council recently argued that cloning exploits women (who donate the eggs) and is akin to slavery (“since cloned human beings are manufactured, their makers own them”).
The religious right have launched a campaign against the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). In anticipation of a June hearing on it in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, religious right groups are urging people to call committee members to ask them to oppose the treaty and to call the White House to ask Bush to “unsign” it.
CEDAW was adopted by the U.N. in 1979. Pres. Carter signed it in 1980 but the Senate never approved it. It calls for nations to condemn and eliminate discrimination against women, ensure the full development and advancement of women, and eliminate prejudices and practices that are based on the inferiority or superiority of either gender. Over 165 nations have ratified it. More than 100 U. S.-based civic, legal, religious, education, and environmental organizations support its ratification.
The religious right call CEDAW “dangerous” because it allegedly seeks to remove all distinctions between the sexes. They charge that various signers have been pressured to legalize or increase access to abortion, legalize prostitution, and ban Mother’s Day.
Catholic Scandal Becomes Anti-Gay Tool
The religious right have seized on the Catholic church sex scandal as another opportunity to censure gays. Several religious right figures have labeled the situation a “homosexual problem.” The Family Research Council and the law review of Pat Robertson’s Regent University have just published reports asserting that research indicates a link between homosexuality and pedophilia. The FRC’s report is being sent to youth groups, school administrators, Catholic bishops, and religious groups and is at frc.org.
Many health care professionals contend that extensive research shows that gay people are not more likely to commit acts of child molestation. The American Psychological Association, National Association of Social Workers, the American Academy of Child Psychiatrists and the Child Welfare League of America have policy statements that there is no correlation between homosexuality and child abuse, according to People for the American Way.
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