October 2003 Issue #103
Texas Biology Textbook Hearing - Round 2
Texas Biology Textbook Hearing - Round 2
Testimony at September’s State Board of Education hearing on biology textbooks, like the July hearing, focused on the books’ treatment of evolution. Texas law allows the SBOE to reject books only if they have factual errors or do not meet the state’s curriculum requirements. Texas’ official curriculum requires the teaching of evolution.
At the hearing, critics of evolution argued that, since Texas law also requires students to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories, books that do not discuss the “weaknesses” of evolution should be rejected. They were led by supporters of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which advocates teaching “intelligent design” or a theory that life developed based on a plan designed by an intelligent cause. Scientists and biology educators led the defense of evolution. Evolution, they said, is accepted as fact by the overwhelming majority of the scientific community and the books are accurate as written. They called on the SBOE to reject efforts to force publishers to insert unscientific material that weakens the presentation of evolution, thereby creating substandard texts and letting religious beliefs affect what is taught in science texts.
The SBOE will vote on the books Nov. 7. Its decision will affect students beyond Texas since Texas is the nation’s second largest textbook buyer.
Religious Right Declare "Defending Marriage" Top Priority
Calling it the "Issue of our Time" and “THE Issue Of 2004,” religious right groups vow to make “defending marriage” their top priority. Over 20 religious right groups, joining forces as the Coalition to Protect Marriage, announced a campaign to maintain marriage as a union of a man and a woman.
The campaign began with an observance of Oct. 12-18 as Marriage Protection Week, which Pres. Bush officially proclaimed the day the coalition was announced. The observance includes inserts in church bulletins, sermons and Christian radio programming on the issue throughout the week.
The groups will work to pass a federal constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. They will also ask all candidates for state or federal office to sign a "Marriage Protection Pledge." The pledge is to protect “the inviolable definition of marriage,” which is defined as the legal union of one man and one woman, and not to recognize the uniting of persons of the same or opposite sex in a civil union, domestic partnership, or similar relationship. The groups announced a voter registration drive and vowed to mobilize more than 25 million voters. Speakers at the press conference announcing the effort called on this to be the main issue in the 2004 election.
The leaders of many of the groups composing the coalition say they are ready to do whatever it takes, as long as it takes, to preserve the traditional view of marriage. They claim to have strong grassroots support, buttressed by recent poll data. Don Wildmon of the American Family Association said that the group is united like never before. "I have never, in my 27 years of working in the pro-family movement, seen such agreement, cooperation and dedication among all the groups,” he said.
Many of these groups have coalesced on specific issues before with varying success, and Jerry Falwell, among others, has called for a constitutional amendment to “protect traditional marriage” for years. Recent events might activate some but it remains to be seen if voters consider this the paramount issue.
Administration Continues Implementing Faith-Based Plan By Rulemaking
The White House has finalized 4 regulatory changes proposed in December and proposed 6 new changes to permit federal funding of faith-based organizations. The final regulations include one that makes faith-based groups eligible for housing grants as long as the grant money is not used for a religious group’s principal place of worship. The new proposals—described as “equal treatment” provisions—apply to the Departments of Justice, Education, Labor, and Veterans Affairs. One would allow federal job training money to be used for religious training.
Alabama Ten Commandments Ruling Activates Religious Right
The religious right has been promoting petitions, rallies, and other actions in response to the removal of the Ten Commandments monument from Alabama’s court building. A "Save the Commandments Caravan" from Alabama to Washington, D.C. culminated in a rally at the Supreme Court “to support the right to acknowledge God in public.” The week-long caravan featured a lighted mobile billboard of the Ten Commandments and a life-size replica of the Alabama monument.
The rally took place on Oct. 6, the first day of the Court’s term. Several hundred people attended. Sponsors called for placing the Ten Commandments in state capitols or other public buildings and asking Congress to place a Ten Commandments monument in the U.S. Capitol, as well as confirming Pres. Bush’s judicial nominees and passing laws allowing the display of the Ten Commandments in governmental buildings. Organizers delivered, they said, 385,000 petitions on behalf of the Ten Commandments. A rally held the week before in Lufkin, at which Rick Scarborough of Houston’s Vision America spoke, drew more than 2,000, according to the Lufkin Daily News.
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