Author Archive

Anti-Science Forces Try to Spin Loss

July 22, 2011

We wondered how the evolution-deniers would spin this disastrous end to their two-year campaign to insert bogus criticisms of evolution into Texas science instructional materials. Predictably, we didn’t have to wait long. They are absurdly claiming they somehow won.

The primary mouthpiece for the state’s anti-evolution lobby — the Texas-affiliate of Focus on the Family that calls itself Liberty Institute — tweeted this knee-slapper:

“Victory! SBOE unanimously votes to require changes to errors in science materials, related to evolution, before adoption.”

Since these folks don’t have a good grasp of what just happened, let’s review some facts here.


Perry Having Second Thoughts?

July 21, 2011

CNN is reporting that Gov. Rick Perry may not speak at the Christians-only prayer rally in Houston next month — the event he initiated.

Wait a minute. What?

The story speculates that criticism over the event — and its loony sponsors and speakers — might be getting to the presidential candidate governor. Maybe. It’s possible he is in the midst of a religious conversion that is making him respectful of religious pluralism and tolerance.

But it’s also possible that the governor is having a good, old fashioned political conversion, perhaps because at last report only 6,000 people have registered for the event (which will be held in the 71,000 seat Reliant Stadium) and 48 governors have said “no thank you” to his invitation to attend.

In any case, we’re pleased that Governor Perry is reconsidering his participation in this divisive event. And we should keep the pressure on. If you haven’t already, sign TFN’s open letter to the governor here.

The Coming Storm

July 20, 2011

Just a reminder about what new chairwoman Barbara Cargill — and her five “conservative Christian” allies on the State Board of Education — have in mind for the meeting this week:

I am a little bit concerned in looking at some of these science online supplementary materials. I looked at one of the links and there was a picture of a — a graphic of a human fetus next to a gorilla fetus talking about how they only differ by one amino acid. Therefore, universal common decent. So that is of some concern. And I am not quite sure if we are going to have the votes to overturn that. We will work diligently to rectify and correct some of that. But remember we lost a conservative seat, so we’re down to six.

In this unguarded moment, Cargill drops the double-speak and is honest about her plan for the first meeting over which she will preside as chair  — pressure publishers to censor scientific information from their materials and to insert bogus information questioning evolution. And she knows exactly what her task is: to get the extra votes necessary to accomplish this.

Stay tuned to TFN Insider on Thursday and Friday as we give you a front-row seat at the contentious hearing and board vote.

2011 Lege Wrap Up: Religious Freedom

July 3, 2011

It’s a biennial legislative tradition in Texas — trotting out a new batch of devious proposals to merge religion and government and attack religious pluralism. And 2011 was no exception.  As the dust settles, the news on this front is mostly good for advocates of religious freedom, as none of the problematic legislation TFN worked to oppose on this issue ultimately made it to the governor’s desk. This should be considered a major victory, given the influx of culture warriors who joined the Texas Legislature this session.

Here are some highlights:


Governor Names Cargill as SBOE Chair

July 1, 2011

Gov. Rick Perry announces his choice for SBOE chair — Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands.

TFN just released the following statement:


Governor’s Third Appointment of Board ‘Culture Warrior’ Ensures Continuing Political Battles


July 1, 2011

The Texas Freedom Network is releasing the following statement from TFN Communications Director Dan Quinn regarding Gov. Rick Perry’s appointment of Barbara Cargill as chair of the State Board of Education. Cargill is the third member of the state board’s faction of social conservatives who Gov. Perry has chosen to chair the board. The governor’s two previous appointees, Don McLeroy and Gail Lowe, failed to gain Senate confirmation because of their repeated efforts to drag Texas public schools into the nation’s divisive culture wars. Quinn said:

“Strike three for Gov. Perry. Once again, he is putting politics ahead of the education of Texas students by installing an ideologue in the chairman’s seat. Just like the governor’s two previous appointees as chair, Ms. Cargill has worked since her election to the board to promote her own personal beliefs rather than facts and sound scholarship in our kids’ classrooms. In fact, she even succeeded in censoring the scientific consensus on the age of the universe from the state’s science standards. And she helped politicize new social studies standards by appointing an unqualified conservative evangelical minister as a so-called ‘expert’ adviser simply because his personal ideology matched her own. Because the Senate can’t act on this nomination until 2013, the governor has single-handedly ensured that the state board will continue to be a divisive and embarrassing battleground in the nation’s culture wars for the next two years.”


Late on a Friday just before a holiday weekend… So not only is it too late for the Senate to confirm Ms. Cargill; this announcement is also likely to escape much vetting in the media. Hmmm. It’s almost like the governor doesn’t want people to scrutinize his choice.

We’ll obviously have much more to say about this next week — especially Ms. Cargill’s science credentials (here’s a tease: did you know she runs a religious “science camp” for kids in The Woodlands?). But until then, check out the history of Cargill’s run ins with TFN Insider over the years.

And have a great Independence Day everyone.

Doubling Down

June 15, 2011

Well, it appears the governor has settled on an answer to critics of his upcoming prayer event. To all of those who object to the sponsorship of the event by a documented hate group, the obvious political overtones and the decision to make the program a Christians-only affair, the message is clear — he isn’t backing off. In fact, he’s doubling down.

On Monday, Eric Bearse, former communications director for Gov. Perry and current spokesperson for the aforementioned hate group the American Family Association, went on the radio and cleared up any remaining doubts about the purpose of this event:

A lot of people want to criticize what we’re doing, as if we’re somehow being exclusive of other faiths. But anyone who comes to this solemn assembly regardless of their faith tradition or background, will feel the love, grace, and warmth of Jesus Christ in that assembly hall, in that arena. And that’s what we want to convey, that there’s acceptance and that there’s love and that there’s hope if people will seek out the living Christ. And that’s the message we want to spread on August 6th.

People of all faiths are welcome… to convert to Christianity. Got it?

Right Wing Watch posted the full audio clip:

If you think the governor shouldn’t be in the business of promoting one faith over others, please sign TFN’s open letter to Gov. Perry.

Perry’s First Endorsement

June 15, 2011

Cynthia Dunbar, of course.

So what could potentially be so unique about a “Perry for President” bid? Being a Texan, I can clearly say that while Perry has admittedly made a few mistakes, he legitimately has both a backbone and a moral compass. But again, these traits could be seen in other candidates. So what could be the defining difference really?

It would appear to be his unquestionable ability to be arguably extreme and yet appeal to the masses through his extremeness. His boldness to be outspoken even to the point of threatening succession from the Union garnered him the love and respect of those seriously disenfranchised with this current administration’s willingness to trample on our Constitution. Perhaps it is a trait that can only be fully implemented by a Texan, a conviction that conjures up the image of bravery and unrelenting passion exhibited at the Alamo, who knows? It does appear that perhaps the rebel with a cause, true to Texas grit of Governor Perry may be just the type of leadership necessary to take on a slick community organizer Obamaesque campaign. I think the Republican Party just might be ready to embrace the following image: an unrelenting Texas gunslinger bearing down on Obama with a take no prisoner’s attitude in the 2012 presidential election.

Putting aside the inscrutable grammar and grade-school spelling errors (what Perry threatened was “secession,” Cynthia. “Succession” is what Marsha Farney did to you when she took over your seat on the Texas State Board of Education), it’s hard to disagree with Dunbar’s analysis. Gov. Perry’s ability to be “extreme and yet appeal to the masses through his extremeness” does indeed make him a unique candidate for president. But while Dunbar celebrates it as strength of character, it scares the hell out of those who believe “extremeness” does not lead to sane, common-sense government.

Houston Clergy Respond to Gov. Perry

June 14, 2011

TFN isn’t the only group organizing a public response to Gov. Perry’s Christians-only prayer rally in Houston later this summer. A group of Houston-area clergy are also objecting to the exclusive and politically divisive nature of the event. Earlier this week, they released a letter spelling out their concerns, including these wise words of caution:

We believe in a healthy boundary between church and state. Out of respect for the state, we believe that it should represent all citizens equally and without preference for religious or philosophical tradition. Out of respect for religious communities, we believe that they should foster faithful ways of living without favoring one political party over another. Keeping the church and state separate allows each to thrive and upholds our proud national tradition of empowering citizens to worship freely and vote conscientiously. We are concerned that our governor has crossed the line by organizing and leading a religious event rather than focusing on the people’s business in Austin.

To these thoughtful and brave clergy who are speaking out for religious liberty, TFN can only say, “Amen. May your tribe increase.”

Full text of their letter after the jump. (And if any religious leaders in the Houston area would like to join this effort, you can add your name to the letter by emailing Rev. Jeremy Rutledge.)


Time-Traveling Founders

June 12, 2011

The religious right’s favorite fake historian, David Barton, wanders into another  popular topic here at TFN Insider: evolution. And as usual, he’s a little fuzzy on the facts.

You go back to the Founding Fathers, and as far as they were concerned, they’d already had the entire debate on creation/evolution. And you get Thomas Paine, who’s the least religious Founding Father, saying, “You’ve got to teach creation science in the public school classroom. Scientific method demands that.” But we’re opposite today!


One problem —

Thomas Paine: 1737 – 1809

Darwin’s On the Origin of Species published: 1859

But the Founders had already had the entire debate on creation/evolution — right, David? Sigh. This isn’t even challenging anymore.

h/t Mother Jones

Getting the Public Out of Education

June 2, 2011

The step from demagoguery to enacting real policy change can be remarkably short, and a prime example of this is on full display in Texas right now.

In 2003 state Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, had this to say about the state’s obligation to provide public education for its citizens:

“Where did this idea come from that everybody deserves free education, free medical care, free whatever? It comes from Moscow, from Russia. It comes straight out of the pit of hell. And it’s cleverly disguised as having a tender heart. It’s not a tender heart. It’s ripping the heart out of this country.”

At the time, Riddle’s remarks were roundly decried as a dangerous, fringe opinion.

Fast forward to 2011, when state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, says almost the same thing, albeit in more diplomatic language. Acknowledging that the school finance plan currently under consideration does away with the longstanding guarantee that Texas schools would get enough money to provide a basic, foundational education for each student, Patrick is quoted in today’s Austin American-Statesman:

“[The school finance change in the new budget] is a true cut in an entitlement… There are no guarantees, and for a Legislature to say we can guarantee this forever is not being straightforward to the people.”


Cynthia Dunbar’s Reading List

June 2, 2011

Our friend Sarah Posner of Religion Dispatches points us to some juicy information we overlooked when writing our recent post on former Texas State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar: the required reading list for the law professor’s “Foundations of Law” course at Liberty Law School. Through the magic of the Internet “Way Back Machine,” you can find the assigned reading list from her course in fall of 2010. It’s revealing:

Foundations of Law I (Law 501) –Professors Lindevaldsen & Dunbar

Required Texts:
Rousas Rushdoony, This Independent Republic (Ross House Books) ISBN: 1879998246

Frederic Bastiat, The Law (Foundation for Economic Freedom) ISBN: 9781572462144

Greg L. Bahnsen, By This Standard: The Authority of God’s Law Today (American Vision) ISBN: 0915815842

CS Lewis, Mere Christianity (Zondervan Publishing House) any edition is acceptable

Francis A. Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto (Crossway Publishers) any edition is acceptable

David Barton, Original Intent: The Courts, the Constitution, & Religion (Paperback) (5th ed., 2008 WallBuilders) ISBN: 9781932225631


‘Of Course It’s a War on Birth Control’

May 29, 2011

Wayne Christian lets the truth slip in an interview with the Texas Tribune:

Of course it’s a war on birth control, abortion, everything — that’s what family planning is supposed to be about.

This wasn’t a momentary slip of the tongue. Christian is just saying out loud what many Texas lawmakers believe — and many more supported with their votes this session. The ideology underlying all the attacks on abortion and Planned Parenthood is fundamentally anti-birth control and anti-family planning. And as so many others have pointed out, it is ultimately self-defeating, as depriving Texas women of birth control is one sure-fire way to increase the number of abortions in this state.

Anti-Sharia Law Measure Back from the Dead

May 24, 2011

I’ll say this for Rep. Leo Berman, R-Tyler — the man is persistent. Like a weed is persistent.

His one-man crusade to pass a law “protecting” Texas from Sharia law — a threat that apparently exists only in his mind, and possibly on talk radio — has officially become a zombie tale. This is the bill that just won’t die. First, he passed HB 911 out of a House committee, only to see it die in the House Calendars Committee without a hearing on the House floor. Then he amended it onto the governor’s emergency tort reform legislation (with the help of Rep. Harvey Hilderbran, R-Kerrville) last week. But that bill (HB 274) was given an overhaul in the Senate State Affairs Committee over the weekend, and Berman’s amendment was stripped out of the bill.

Undeterred, Berman was back on the House floor last night, pushing to add his anti-foreign law language as an amendment to yet another bill (SB 1717). And as with his previous attempt, the words “Sharia law” or “Islam” were never mentioned during the brief discussion in the House. The amendment passed without a word of dissent — or even a record vote.

Since Berman’s amendment was one of several significant changes the House made to this bill, it will likely be assigned to a conference committee to resolve the differences. We’ll be watching to see if this language finally passes into law, or if this is strike three for Berman.

Catching Up with Cynthia Dunbar

May 23, 2011

When former State Board of Education member — and perennial TFN nemesis– Cynthia Noland Dunbar left the board last December after declining to run for a second term, some wondered if she was withdrawing from the culture wars, which she repeatedly stoked during her tenure on the board. She has been notably (and thankfully) absent from the Texas political scene this spring, so we were curious about what she was up to these days.

Turns out, she didn’t retire — she just took her act on the road. (more…)

Creationists Appointed to Science Review Panels

May 13, 2011

The Texas Education Agency just released the full list of members serving on the science review panels that will evaluate instructional materials submitted for approval by the State Board of Education (SBOE). As TFN predicted earlier this spring, the review panel for biology includes a number of individuals with a history of promoting intelligent design/creationism or advocating the teaching of phony “weaknesses” of evolution in science classes.

Last month the Texas Freedom Network and the National Center for Science Education identified proposed materials from one vendor, New Mexico-based International Databases, that promote intelligent design/creationism as real science. Now evolution deniers on the review teams will likely use their positions as a podium to promote the same flawed arguments.

Read TFN’s press release here.

A preliminary analysis by TFN of the biology review panel identified at least three anti-evolution activists: (more…)