The Texas Eagle Forum strolled into the wrong committee hearing last month (video below).
It was on Feb. 17 when the Texas House Committee on Public Education met in Austin to take up interim charges at a hearing on charter schools. Speaking at the hearing, TEF Vice President MerryLynn Gerstenschlager asked lawmakers to pass legislation requiring charter school operators to be U.S. citizens.
Why? Fethullah Gulen.
We’ve seen this song and dance before. When your goal is to stoke irrational fears, it’s always best to have a bogeyman you can point to. And for a few years now, far-right pressure groups like TEF have settled on Gulen and Harmony Charter Schools.
It goes like this: Fethullah Gulen, who is a billionaire Turkish Muslim living in Pennsylvania, funds numerous charter schools across the country — including some in Texas — under the name of Harmony Charter Schools. Ergo: Muslim+schools+children=Indoctrination. At least, that’s the way TEF sees it.
But to hear TEF tell it, the problem is not that Gulen is Muslim. Says Gerstenschlager:
“There is an emphasis on Turkish culture. And that is fine. But it seems to be a common thread throughout these schools. And I wonder if they spend as much time teaching about American culture. That is my concern, that young impressionable children will become sympathetic towards Turkey and I wonder where their allegiance will lie.”
And that’s really the only evidence TEF has offered to support the claim that Gulen aims to indoctrinate — that Gulen is Turkish. As you’ll see, Gerstenschlager repeatedly denies that Gulen’s faith has anything to do with it, but she also claims that Gulen is tied to radical Islamism. Which begs the question: Would TEF even be at this hearing if Gulen were, say, a Christian born in Turkey?
But when Gerstenschlager testified at the committee hearing, both Republicans and Democrats would have none of it.
Who says the parties can’t agree on anything these days?
Far-right activists in Texas are so obsessed with Gulen that during the last legislative session they were willing to shut down government in order to push their divisive propaganda.
Whether they have a problem with all foreign-born billionaires allegedly using their wealth to influence America from within, or just the Muslim ones, is unclear. But we think it’s just the Muslim ones. All other ones (see Murdoch, Rupert) are probably fine.