Outrageous claims in an effort to win Senate confirmation of Don McLeroy as chairman of the Texas State Board of Education reveal once again how vicious and dishonest the far right can be. As we reported Wednesday, the Senate Nominations Committee has forwarded McLeroy’s nomination to the full Senate for a vote (probably next week). Here’s what we’re seeing in right-wing blogs and e-mails:
- Free Market Foundation Focus on the Family-Texas says McLeroy has suffered “increasing and outrageous attacks on his personal religious beliefs.”
- Free Market Focus was echoing an opinion piece headlined “Christians Need Not Apply” by state board member Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, from two weeks ago.
- State board member Terri Leo, R-Spring, sent out an e-mail three days ago charging that McLeroy has “suffered unfair treatment verging on religious discrimination.”
- In circulating Leo’s e-mail Wednesday, right-wing gadfly Donna Garner (who played a role in sabotaging the adoption of sound language arts curriculum standards last year) claims that McLeroy “is being vilified and condemned because he is a Christian and holds a Biblical worldview of creation.”
It’s hard to think of a more appropriate word for these baseless accusations other than “vile.” Free Market Focus, Mercer, Leo and Garner are viciously wielding faith as a political weapon to bludgeon their opponents until they get their way. Simply put, they’re shameless.
The truth is that no one in the Senate, at TFN or any other organization of which we are aware has attacked Chairman McLeroy’s personal religious beliefs. He has every right to his beliefs, as we all do. And we condemn attacks on anyone’s faith.
But we object to dumbing down the state’s public school science curriculum simply because McLeroy and his board allies see sound, mainstream, evidence-based science as a threat to their religious beliefs about creation. Mainstream scientists have repeatedly shown McLeroy and other creationists that their arguments against evolution are not supported by scientific evidence. Because of that, those arguments simply have no place in a science classroom.
McLeroy says he doesn’t agree, and he claims he is not trying to promote his religious beliefs in public school science classrooms. But let’s look at the record once again.
It’s McLeroy who told the New York Times that he sees two systems of science, one “naturalist” and the other “creationist.” It’s McLeroy who has said he wants to redefine science to include supernatural explanations. It’s McLeroy who has strongly endorsed a book that says parents who want their children to learn about evolution are “monsters” and that clergy who see no conflict between their faith and science are “morons.” It’s McLeroy who has said he was one of only “four really conservative, orthodox Christians on the board” who opposed science textbooks in 2003 that didn’t challenge evolution.
Of course, McLeroy is not alone in putting religion at the center of this debate. Mercer, for example, has challenged the faith of fellow board members who support teaching about evolution, charging that they have “allowed themselves to be constantly lobbied by prominent atheists and secular humanists.” Garner herself has circulated an e-mail calling into question the faith of board members supporting evolution. That e-mail even blamed learning about evolution for Jeffrey Dahmer’s murders and cannibalism.
But the problems with McLeroy and the state board extend far beyond undermining science education for religious purposes. McLeroy and his board allies have repeatedly undermined and disregarded the work of education professionals and scientists as well as state law.
It was McLeroy who refused to allow the board’s appointed science experts to review and advise on changes he and other board members wanted to make to the science standards to water down instruction on evolution. It was McLeroy who supported throwing out three years of work by teachers and education specialists, voting instead for a language arts curriculum his board allies patched together overnight and presented an hour before the final meeting. And it was McLeroy who voted to reject a mathematics textbook in 2007 for reasons that fell outside what was legally permissible under state law. (Plus, school districts, including in Dallas, had reported success in using that mathematics textbook.)
Yet Free Market Focus and people like Mercer, Leo and Garner want senators and voters to believe that opposition to McLeroy’s confirmation is a result of religious discrimination. That’s incredibly offensive and absurdly hypocritical. But surely after all we’ve seen, no one is surprised by their charges.
If you haven’t done so already, urge your state senator to oppose McLeroy’s confirmation. (You can find contact information for your senator here.) Tell your senator that this isn’t about McLeroy’s religious beliefs. It’s a referendum on whether Texas students should get an education based on sound scholarship or the personal and political agendas of State Board of Education members.