Why Aren’t They Telling the Truth?

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Far-right groups have consistently and recklessly blamed religious discrimination for the Senate’s failure to confirm the nomination of Don McLeroy as chairman of the Texas State Board of Education.

An e-mail today from Texas Eagle Forum:

Don McLeroy’s opponents admitted he was “fair,” but simply did not like his Biblical worldview. Please thank him for his courageous service as SBOE chairman and encourage him to continue to stand for righteousness in the public square.

One of the staffers at Free Market Foundation Focus on the Family – Texas:

The message has been sent — if you have sincere religious beliefs, you need not apply to be chair of the State Board of Education.

Even state Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, suggested that people would see McLeroy’s failure to win confirmation as evidence of a “religious test” for office.

This all is nonsense. As senators who voted against his confirmation repeatedly said, McLeroy is a good, decent man. No one attacked McLeroy’s “Biblical worldview.” His religious beliefs weren’t at issue.

Simply put, McLeroy’s chairmanship failed students, their families and other taxpayers. He has sided with board members who callously disregard the work and advice of teachers, specialists and academic experts. (Examples here and here.) His board failed to adopt and stick to processes that allow for open and informed debate of public policies regarding education. (Example here.) It thumbed its nose at the Legislature, refusing to obey state statutes on textbook adoptions and setting curriculum standards for public school Bible classes. And, frankly, McLeroy has sided with board members and others who have viciously attacked the religious faith of people who don’t oppose teaching the true science of evolution. (Examples here, here, here and here.)

Why are McLeroy’s defenders so recklessly distorting the truth? It’s an old tactic for the religious right: using faith as a weapon to divide Texans for political gain. They believe that persuading some people of faith that their beliefs and rights are under attack — regardless of the truth — will bring rewards at the ballot box in 2010.

It’s a cynical, repulsive political strategy that Texas Freedom Network has been fighting for nearly 15 years.

UPDATE: Here’s another example of the nonsense we’re talking about. David Barton, head of the far-right organization WallBuilders, will interview SBOE member Ken Mercer on his Internet radio show Wednesday in a segment titled “Religious Test for Officials?” Barton, of course, has been appointed by the SBOE to an “expert” panel for revising the state’s social studies curriculum standards. Expect to see this cynical propaganda campaign continue throughout that revision process (and beyond).

15 Responses to “Why Aren’t They Telling the Truth?”

  1. b. j. edwards Says:

    People like McLeroy and Sen. Steve Ogden, in their outright misrepresentation of evolutionary biology, science, and their own actions, end up giving Christianity a bad name. One has to wonder how and why the majority of Christians can tolerate that and remain silent.

  2. Charles Says:

    I find it amusing that McLeroy and the Discovery Institute claimed all along that their SBOE fight was about science and not their religion. However, when they and their plans meet with political disaster, as they did late last week, they whine to high heaven that it was all about their religion and them being persecuted for that religion. The extreme latitude in that irony should inform us all that their is massive dishonesty coming from far right extremists, and most sadly of all, that dishonesty is rooted most securely in people of faith who claim to adhere to the 9th commandment.

    Message from the Far Religious Right to Charles:

    “But you don’t understand Charles. Our situation is desperate. We scraped all the way to the bottom of our barrel on honesty in the 1980s and lost in every federal court battle we could find. You have to understand that dishonesty and deception are all we have left to wage the battle to save our form of faith. We are hanging on by our fingernails and desperately need the government to come to the aid of our fundamentalist faith, especially in our public schools.”

    Message from Benjamin Franklin:

    “I think they were invented not so much to secure religion as the emoluments of it. When a religion is good, I conceive that it will support, itself; and when it does not support itself, and God does not take care to support it, so that its professors are obliged to call for help of the civil power, ’tis a sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one.” (Works, Vol. viii., p. 506).

  3. James F Says:

    The message has been sent — if you have sincere religious beliefs, you need not apply to be chair of the State Board of Education.

    They’re all Christians!
    Doesn’t anyone notice this? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!

  4. TFN Says:

    Very good point.

  5. Joe Lapp Says:

    Despite my being a political imbecile (which I really am), I question TFN’s strategy here.

    Regardless of the McLeroy vote, both left and right complain about McLeroy’s actions on the board, identifying the individual actions. The Far Right calls such complaints religious discrimination. The implication is direct and obvious: the Far Right is claiming discrimination against McLeroy’s religious actions on the board.

    As TFN says, the real issue here is not the religions of the board members, or even their religiosity. However TFN also seems to be saying that religion has nothing to do with the problem. That’s just political posturing. The real problem is that McLeroy and the other creationists are forcing their religious and Far Right ideologies on all the children of Texas.

    TFN may feel hamstrung against making any critique of religious behavior here in Texas, but I can’t believe that being wishy-washy about the actual problem will allow us to solve the problem. If you want people to care and act, you have to tell them what’s going on: that the SBOE is trying to force a very specific religious view on everyone’s children, the differing personal beliefs of parents be damned.

    Also, I think saying that anyone is lying or not telling the truth shuts people out. It’s too vague, too easy to claim, too commonplace, even too base. I think headlines need to be specific and keep hammering in the points that people will listen to.

    (Oops. I think I just crushed my soap box.)

  6. PHarvey Says:

    James F is right.

    The entire Texas State Legislature is Christian. The Religious Right defends a completely incompetent McLeroy by claiming religious persecution, even though they (and McLeroy) claimed religion had nothing to do with the science standards.

    The Wingnuts can’t have it both ways.

    I have given up on the far Religious Right to ever be honest. I have never seen them do anything other than misrepresent facts and their true motives.

    Examples of what the Far Right really means to say:

    English Language Arts TEKS – We don’t care if Hispanic kids learn English or not, and we aren’t going to go out of our way to teach them.

    Science TEKS – We are going to find a way to teach creationism and our religious beliefs in science classes even if we have to lie and cast doubt (with no basis in fact) on established, factual science.

    Social Studies TEKS – We don’t care about factual history. We are going to teach a version of history that is sanitized and makes Christianity look good without mentioning all those murderous atrocities that occured before separation of Church and State. And don’t forget that only Europeans made significant contributions to America. Slavery wasn’t that bad, Indians didn’t mind having their land stolen, getting shot and being stuck on reservations. The South should have been allowed to leave the union instead of fighting in the War of Northern Aggression. Civil rights laws weren’t needed. Discrimination was minimal and no longer exists.

    Basically, white Christians never did anything wrong. It was all those minorities fault. Heck, we never exploited anyone that didn’t allow us or deserve it.

  7. Charles Says:

    Well. Lapp and Harvey are right. This is sort of like the Civil War where a lot of people—even 100 years after the fact in 1965—were arguing that slavery “…had nothing to do with it.” Instead, it was all about the constitution (which basically condoned slavery as an institution) and so-called states rights versus a strong central government. While those things are true, I think anyone with a brain in their head knows that if slavery did not exist that war would have never been fought. It was about slavery more than anything ultimately.

    While I realize that TFN does not want to overtly offend anyone by tip-toeing through their religious tulips, I think it is incorrect to imply that the controversy is all about science and that religion has nothing to do with it. That is the untruthful position of the other side. I do not think TFN does itself any favors by adhering to the same untruthful position as the opposition. If we are to be truthful in what we do, we have to understand the “slavery” principle. This fight is about religion AND science. It always has been and always will be until the truth ultimately wins out—and the science will win out because the truth is on its side.

    I object to McLeroy and his supporters on religious and scientific grounds. As a formerly fully dunked Southern Baptist and a current United Methodist, I do not want radical Christian Neo-Fundamentalism crap being taught to my children in their science classes, social studies classes, English language classes, or any other classes. As an environmental scientists and a social scientist who works with American history, I do not want my children to be learning pseudo-science and pseudo- American history in their public schools. If we are going to do that, we might as well scrap our math courses and replace them with numerology courses. We might as well scrap our science classes and teach astrology and alchemy in their place. What are the elements of the Periodic Table—earth , wind, fire, and water?

    In fighting the SBOE and the Religious Right in general, I think TFN and the rest of us need to understand that this is not about religious bigotry against Christian Neo-Fundamentalism. This is about protecting our own children, our government, and our own churches from a perverted form of the Christian faith that is trying with all its might to destroy all three.

    In mainstream religious faith in the United States today, there is widespread and legitimate religious opposition to what McLeroy, Dunbar, and Leo are trying to achieve on the SBOE. If you doubt it and think it is about bigotry from a small group of anti-religious agnostics, atheists , or demons, read the following exact quote from a speech given by Dr. R. Kirby Godsey, Minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ When this speech was given in 2003, Dr. Godsey was the President of Mercer University in Macon, Georgia. Mercer University is an old and much venerated Southern Baptist religious institution that is also known as a solid academic university such as Baylor University. The title of the speech is “Recentering the Church and Its Minsitry.” The speech lays out six trends that Dr. Godsey believes will shape the Christian church over the next fifity years. In the following two paragraphs, he presents the first trend:

    “I believe that over the next few decades, fundamentalism will be unmasked and exposed as a fraudulent form of faith. Fundamentalism in all of its expressions worldwide is barbaric and uncivilized, replacing creativity with control and manipulation. It churns out passions that breed religious hatred and bigotry and the twisted wreckage of misplaced devotion. The ascendance of fundamentalist passion and the rhetoric of holy destruction (an oxymoron if I ever heard one) is contributing to the demise of humankind, diminsihing our higher calling to love mercy and to do justice, and places the progress of human creation in peril. There is not a dime’s worth of difference in Christian, Baptist, Jewish, or Islamic fundammentalism They are all dangerous, evil forms of religious commitment. People who maim and kill and destroy and put other people down in the name of God are children of evil and the appeal to God’s name does not bring sanctity to their work. Holy meanness is still meanness!

    Clearly, terrorism spawned by religious fundamentalism has become the greatest threat to civilization in the world today. But we should not deceive ourselves into believing that terrorism is the sole possession of Islam. And, we should not remain silent about the ascendance of fundamentalism in our Baptist ranks. Fundamentalism has corroded the Baptist message. It has undermined the Baptist witness. It has set Baptists as a denomination, adrift in the sea of insignificance and fundamentalism will ultimately be exposed as a fraudulent force of faith. In the end it will fail because it is evil.”

    That is what Dr. Godsey had to say, and I think he is dead on right.

  8. Charles Says:

    Dr. Godsey says:

    “I believe that over the next few decades, fundamentalism will be unmasked and exposed as a fraudulent form of faith. Fundamentalism in all of its expressions worldwide is barbaric and uncivilized, replacing creativity with control and manipulation. It churns out passions that breed religious hatred and bigotry and the twisted wreckage of misplaced devotion. The ascendance of fundamentalist passion and the rhetoric of holy destruction (an oxymoron if I ever heard one) is contributing to the demise of humankind, diminsihing our higher calling to love mercy and to do justice, and places the progress of human creation in peril. There is not a dime’s worth of difference in Christian, Baptist, Jewish, or Islamic fundamentalism. They are all dangerous, evil forms of religious commitment. People who maim and kill and destroy and put other people down in the name of God are children of evil and the appeal to God’s name does not bring sanctity to their work. Holy meanness is still meanness!

    Clearly, terrorism spawned by religious fundamentalism has become the greatest threat to civilization in the world today. But we should not deceive ourselves into believing that terrorism is the sole possession of Islam. And, we should not remain silent about the ascendance of fundamentalism in our Baptist ranks. Fundamentalism has corroded the Baptist message. It has undermined the Baptist witness. It has set Baptists as a denomination, adrift in the sea of insignificance and fundamentalism will ultimately be exposed as a fraudulent force of faith. In the end it will fail because it is evil.”

    That is what Dr. Godsey had to say, and I think he is dead on right.

  9. Joe Lapp Says:

    Lying is an understood and tacitly accepted aspect of politics. Calling foul by accusing someone of lying is like point to a person and calling them a politician. My response is, “Yeah, so what else is new? Quit being a crybaby, this is how the game is played.”

    The only time lying matters in politics is when you do it under oath. That’s probably only reason for oaths anyway.

  10. PHarvey Says:

    Joe Lapp Says:
    “Lying is an understood and tacitly accepted aspect of politics. ”

    Maybe so, but it is an exceedingly unChristian and hypocritical thing to do in defence of one’s Christianity.

  11. Charles Says:

    Yes, and just in case you might think what Dr. Godsey said is nuts, take a look at this. Dr. Tiller was shot and killed while serving as an usher in his Lutheran Church this morning in Wichita, Kansas. You can argue all day about whether his professional actions were right or wrong. Personally, I do not like the idea of late term abortions, but that is not the point. The point is that someone—some human being—decided that he was self-righteous enough that he was going to help God out by killing Dr. Tiller. Shot him in church right in front of his friends, family, and fellow church members. Gunned down right there in front of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit where two or more were gathered together in their name. I think it will be interesting to wait and see whether the alleged murderer they captured is some stripe of Christian-Neofundamentalist or Fundamentalist Catholic. It’s like Dr. Godsey said:

    “There is not a dime’s worth of difference in Christian, Baptist, Jewish, or Islamic fundamentalism. They are all dangerous, evil forms of religious commitment. People who maim and kill and destroy and put other people down in the name of God are children of evil and the appeal to God’s name does not bring sanctity to their work. Holy meanness is still meanness!”

    I invite every Christian-Neofundamentalist in Texas to stop right now and ask a question. Down deep in your heart, in that place you are too scared to go, are you secretly glad that Dr. Tiller was killed? Are you pleased? Do you feel gratitude to his killer? Do you feel like you would like to give his killer a pat on the back for a job well done? In the news stories that are coming out, Christian-Neofundamentalists are stating right and left that they are appalled by this incident and would never condone such a thing. Personally, I do not believe them. Their record of hate speech is so long and detailed that no one in their right mind would ever believe them. For those who purvey hate under the guise of religion, these are the fruits. As Jesus said, “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

  12. Nagla Says:

    Isn’t it amazing how these self-professed ‘christian soldiers’ lie, distort the truth, and cheat so easily because the end justifies the means. I want to know what definition of christianity do they subscribe to. The christianity I know is long suffering, relies heavily on telling the truth and being an upright person.

  13. Joe Lapp Says:

    PHarvey–

    Lying isn’t just “unChristian,” it’s immoral. But I understand that you’re pointing out the hypocrisy of lying in the name of Christianity.

  14. Bryan Says:

    I appreciate Joe Lapp’s comments because I have the same concerns. My letters to my Sen. Shapiro did not try to walk a fine PC line. I called it as I saw it. While Dr. McLeroy was entitled to his faith, he was not entitled to impose it on all of us. It begs the question how people of faith in officials positions are supposed to act. My answer would be: Dr. McLeroy had every right to express his opinion re: a 6,000-year old Earth, but had no right to use the power of his position to make it policy. I’m not comfortable making arguments that avoid reference to his faith because it is the 800-lb gorilla. I found it no more sincere that McLeroy’s argument that he’s fighting for scientific integrity.

  15. Charles Says:

    Information on Scott Roeder, the alleged murderer of Dr. Tiller is beginning to come out now. Some Internet sleuths have tracked down actual posts that he has made in the past to assorted websites. Here are a few quotes from those posts:

    And Scott Roeder posted a creepy comment at the Operation Rescue website in 2007, in this topic about Dr. Tiller: Operation Rescue® » Pray in May to Stop Abortion, Wichita, KS, May 17-20, 2007:

    Scott Roeder Says:
    May 19th, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    Bleass everyone for attending and praying in May to bring justice to Tiller and the closing of his death camp.

    Sometime soon, would it be feasible to organize as many people as possible to attend Tillers church (inside, not just outside) to have much more of a presence and possibly ask questions of the Pastor, Deacons, Elders and members while there? Doesn’t seem like it would hurt anything but bring more attention to Tiller.

    Another comment from Roeder is posted at anti-abortion site ChargeTiller.com:

    Scott Roeder
    Mon September 03, 2007, 09:49:40

    It seems as though what is happening in Kansas could be compared to the “lawlessness” which is spoken of in the Bible. Tiller is the concentration camp “Mengele” of our day and needs to be stopped before he and those who protect him bring judgement upon our nation.

    Authorities discovered a Post-It note in his car with the phone number of Operation Rescue:

    KMBC-TV in Kansas City reported that the suspect had a post-it note with the phone number of anti-abortion group Operation Rescue in his car, however that group issued a statement this morning denouncing the shooting.

    An Anti-Defamation League “Militia Watchdog” report provides some more background information on Scott Roeder: Calendar of Conspiracy Volume 1 Number 3.

    July 7, Kansas: Scott Roeder is sentenced to sixteen months in state prison for parole violations following a 1996 conviction for having bomb components in his car trunk. Roeder, a sovereign citizen and tax protester, violated his parole by not filing tax returns or providing his social security number to his employer.

    The Christian-Neofundamentalist religious affiliations are clearly there, especially the famous catch phrase “…bring judgement down upon our nation…” Please also note the “tax protester” designation. “Tax protesting” and the wild legal theories that go with it are key attributes of far right wingnut extremists.

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