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Textbook Selection in Texas: An Issue of Separation of Church and State Steven D. Schafersman, Ph.D. President, Texas Citizens for Science The Texas Lyceum.

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Presentation on theme: "Textbook Selection in Texas: An Issue of Separation of Church and State Steven D. Schafersman, Ph.D. President, Texas Citizens for Science The Texas Lyceum."— Presentation transcript:

1 Textbook Selection in Texas: An Issue of Separation of Church and State Steven D. Schafersman, Ph.D. President, Texas Citizens for Science The Texas Lyceum Austin, July 13, 2007

2 The United States Constitution The Bill of Rights: First Amendment “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”  Establishment Clause Separationist Interpretation (strict separation, no aid) Accommodationist Interpretation (some aid permitted, such as for health, safety, transportation, etc.) Both interpretations are Non-Preferentialist (cannot prefer one religion over another or religion over non-religion)  Free Exercise Clause

3 Separation of Church and State False Claim: There is nothing in the Constitution or Bill of Rights about separation of church and state. The Establishment Clause only prohibits Congress from establishing a national religion, so government can promote religious agendas. “I don't believe there's such a thing as the separation of church and state. In fact, the First Amendment to the Constitution actually calls on the United States Congress to make sure, to ensure that people are allowed to practice their religion.” Texas Rep. Leo Berman Truth: Separation of Church and State is a metaphor of the Establishment Clause. “In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect ‘a wall of separation between church and State.’” Justice Hugo Black

4 Fourteenth Amendment “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Under the “Incorporation Doctrine,” the Supreme Court has held since 1868 that the protections of the Bill of Rights apply to state, county, and municipal governments, even though the Amendments state that they apply only to Congress. Decades were required to make freedom from religious establishment a reality. The process continues today.

5 Religion and Non-Religion False Claim: The Establishment Clause only prohibits preference of one religion over another, not religion over non-religion, so governments can promote—through legislation and statute—broadly religious goals and agendas. “Freedom of religion should not be mistaken for freedom from religion.” Governor Rick Perry Truth: “Government should not prefer one religion to another, or religion to irreligion.” Justice David Souter, Justice Hugo Black, etc., in several Supreme Court decisions. The slightest empathy or reflectance would demonstrate why freedom from religion is necessary. Individuals such as Gov. Perry presumably wish to be free from other religions so they can practice their own.

6 Religious and Secular False Claim: When religion is removed from the public schools, it is replaced by a “religion of secularism,” which hurts religious students. “We don't need to shield our children from religious expression and allow them to only be exposed to the religion of secularism in our schools.” Governor Rick Perry Truth: The U.S. Constitution requires that our various governments and government institutions—such as public schools—must be secular. Secularism is the middle, neutral state between religion and anti-religion. Individuals can choose to be religious, non-religious (secular), or anti-religious, but the state must be secular by law.

7 Establishment vs. Free Expression Picture of Jesus with the Bible on the wall of the courthouse in Slidell, Louisiana

8 Establishment vs. Free Expression False Claim: The Constitution permits and protects religious practice and speech, but some organizations are wrongfully attacking the rights of citizens to pray and express their religion as they wish. "[The ACLU is] one of the worst attackers of religious speech in America," Gary McCaleb, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, told ABC News about the Slidell, LA, courthouse case. Truth: The Free Expression clause of the U.S. Constitution protects individual religious practice and speech, but the Establishment Clause prohibits or limits what a government can say or do regarding religion. Conflating individual religious expression and government expression to confuse citizens about the laws regarding church-state separation is a deliberate misrepresentation, usually indulged in to demonize the opposition.

9 The Problem Public officials I term the “4Rs”—Radical Religious Right Republicans—aggressively use the power of their state offices to force their sectarian religious values and beliefs onto moderate citizens and secular institutions.  Censorship of public school textbooks, especially biology texts  Vouchers for private schools—almost all are religious schools  Proselytization of students using Bible study classes (HB 1287)  Requiring recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance with “under God” phrase, requiring a “moment of silence,” and adding “under God” to the Texas Pledge (HB 1034)  Forcing religious speech on captive student audiences under the guise of “freedom of religious expression” (HB 3678)  Abstinence only; against stem cell research; extorting faith-based pre-marriage counseling; attempts to ban abortion, etc.


11 Texas Constitution and Vouchers Article 1 - BILL OF RIGHTS Section 7 - APPROPRIATIONS FOR SECTARIAN PURPOSES “No money shall be appropriated, or drawn from the Treasury for the benefit of any sect, or religious society, theological or religious seminary; nor shall property belonging to the State be appropriated for any such purposes.” Over half the states have had a statewide referendum on the question of giving public tax money to private religious schools. In every case, vouchers failed by a 2-1 margin. The same would occur in Texas if the legislature would allow a vote. City councils and state legislatures have tried to implement limited voucher programs, but most of these have failed in state and federal court decisions; e.g., Florida.

12 School Vouchers – An Accommodation Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, 2002 (narrow 5-4 SC decision)  Valid secular purpose (e.g., assistance to failing public schools)  Public financial assistance is neutral, not directed to religious schools (but almost all private schools are religious)  Public financial assistance given to parents, not schools (but it quickly goes to schools) Results:  Voucher programs focus on meeting Supreme Court guidelines  Voucher proposals for “failing” urban schools, autistic students, etc.  Legislative efforts and ploys to cause public schools to fail: under- funding schools, over-testing students, delaying teachers salary raises, requiring “teacher accountability,” charter schools, virtual academies, promoting home-schooling, etc.

13 WHY? Why do the 4Rs engage in their blatant unconstitutional activity? They want to counter the Constitutional secular and neutral nature of government institutions, especially the public school system, which they perceive as anti-religious. They wish to reinforce the almost pervasive religious proselytization of children in Texas society, so to do their part in their evangelical mission. They know they can succeed in steps, by keeping the pressure on and gradually winning small victories, ultimately winning larger victories. Courts may rule against them, but courts can change, and precedents can be overturned. After all, stare decisis is dead. So is hypocrisy.


15 Who are the Radical Religious Right Republicans in Texas doing the most damage to our Constitutional liberties? Governor Rick Perry House Speaker Tom Craddick Representative Warren Chisum Representative Charlie Howard Former Rep. Kent Grusendorf Super Lobbyist James Leininger

16 Texas Representative Warren Chisum Bible curriculum bill, religious expression bill, marriage counseling bill, anti-gay marriage bill, sex education written consent bill, pro-textbook censorship bill, etc. “Especially as Republicans, as long as we do those things [writing legislation that promotes an extreme religious agenda], we kind of keep our faith-based constituents out there encouraged that we're doing the right thing. It is political... as well it should be.” “They expect us to do those kinds of things when we come down here, and I'm proud to do it.” “I'm a Christian, and I believe in creation. You ought to teach creation as well as the fact of evolution [because] all of those kinds of sciences have holes in them.” “The bill applies to the Bible as a text that has historical and literary value. [The] Quran is a religious philosophy, not of historical or literary value, which is what the Bible is being taught for.” Religion “governs just about everything I do.”


18 Chisum Apologized for a Memo’s Anti-Semitic Content, But Not Its Anti-Science Content.

19 Textbook Censorship was common and is still ongoing in Texas. Biology, earth science, environmental science, history, economics, civics, social studies, literature, health education, and many other textbooks—including the dictionary—have been censored by the radical religious right majority on the State Board of Education for decades, and education in Texas has suffered, especially science education. The topic of evolution in biology textbooks was especially damaged in the 1960s and 1970s, when the subject was watered-down, relegated to insignificance, and even removed from some textbooks. Anti-evolution disclaimers were stamped in biology texts! Efforts began in 1980 to challenge the censorship problem.

20 Texas Citizens for Science (1980-present), People for the American Way (1982-1994), National Center for Science Education (1984-present), and the Texas Freedom Network (1994-present) have worked to correct the textbook censorship problem in Texas for the last quarter century. TCS and PFAW were able to have the anti-evolution stamps removed from biology textbooks in 1983. TCS and PFAW were able to get the topic of evolution restored to its important scientific place in the science curriculum standards and biology textbooks in 1988. Publicity from TCS and PFAW’s activity led the Texas Legislature in 1995 to strip the SBOE of its power to censor textbooks in secret, by private negotiation with publishers. Only factual errors could now be corrected. TCS and TFN worked to adopt the finest biology textbooks in the history of Texas in 2003. (We failed in 2004 with the health texts.)

21 In 2005, Warren Chisum and Charlie Howard tried to restore the power of the SBOE to censor textbooks. (Howard has tried to do this every session.) They failed (because the Texas Legislature doesn’t really like the SBOE, since it has given Texas a bad reputation). But science textbooks continue to be censored by unscrupulous SBOE members who aggressively and mendaciously define “factual errors” to suit their purposes. For example, in 2002 an environmental science text was rejected because its statement that “humans and industrial plants cause pollution” was determined to be a “factual error.” Creationists in 2003 attempted to convince a majority of the SBOE that content about evolution and the chemical origin of life in biology texts up for adoption was factually in error. Scientists and business leaders worked together to thwart them, and reliable biology texts were adopted.

22 The Textbook Adoption System is Still Broken The Texas SBOE still has too much power. Science textbook publishers engage in self-censorship, anticipating what content the Texas SBOE will permit. An abstinence-only policy was implicitly mandated by the SBOE. The topic of contraception was omitted from all health education textbooks in 2004, despite the facts that  over 60% of Texas high school students engage in sexual activity,  Texas has one of the highest teenage illegitimate pregnancy rates, and  Texas has one of the highest teenage STD and HIV rates. The politically-appointed Texas Commissioner of Health refused to intervene or say anything, despite TCS’s written requests.

23 There is no law requiring that accurate and reliable science be taught or pseudoscience to not be taught in public schools. Instead, every significant court case involving creationism and intelligent design was decided in science and society’s favor on the basis of a First Amendment, Establishment Clause violation. Every court concluded that the defendants tried to force sectarian religion into science classrooms (or keep evolution out of them). Evolution v. Creationism or Intelligent Design Creationism Cases:  Epperson v. Arkansas, 1968 (Supreme Court: anti-evolution law overturned)  Wright v. Houston ISD, 1972 (District Court: evolution ruled not a secular religion)  McLean v. Arkansas, 1982 (District Court: balanced treatment law overturned; creation science not science, but a religious doctrine)  Edwards v. Aguillard, 1987 (Supreme Court: equal-time law overturned; creation science ruled not legitimate science)  Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish, 1997 (District Court: disclaimer law overturned)  Kitzmiller v. Dover, 2005 (District Court: disclaimer law overturned; intelligent design ruled to be creationism, a religious doctrine)

24 Conclusions The accuracy and reliability of our country’s science education system depends on a Constitutional clause that prohibits the establishment of religion! Textbook censorship is just one part of a much larger problem involving the promotion of sectarian religion by public officials. “Human civilization becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.” H.G. Wells, The Outline of History The Texas 4Rs are courting catastrophe by gaming the system to achieve their sectarian self-interests. They regularly pervert science education (and other cultural values) by using the powers of their offices to legislate fundamentalist Protestant Christian doctrines that Texas secular public institutions must accept. By opposing them and working to protect science education, I, on the other hand, am working to preserve humanity and civilization.

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