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Texas Ed Board Guts Instruction on Key Constitutional Protection for Religious Freedom

New Social Studies Standards Suggest that Separation of Church and State Is Not a Key Principle of Constitution

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 21, 2010

The Texas State Board of Education today gutted a key protection for religious freedom by suggesting in new social studies curriculum standards for public schools that separation of church and state is not a key principle of the Constitution, the president of the Texas Freedom Network said.

“This board simply decided to ignore mainstream constitutional scholarship, a long and consistent history of Supreme Court decisions and even the beliefs of the vast majority of Texans,” TFN President Kathy Miller said. “The new standard suggests that separation of church and state isn’t a key principle in our Constitution. Otherwise, why ask students to ‘contrast’ the First Amendment with ‘separation of church and state’? You contrast opposing ideas, not ideas that complement each other.”

The board approved the following curriculum standard for high school government classes: “examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America and guaranteed it free exercise by saying that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, and compare and contrast this to the phrase ‘separation of church and state.’”

A poll conducted May 4-12 for the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund by the national firm of Greenberg Rosner Quinlan Research showed that
68 percent of likely voters in Texas believe “separation of church and state is a key principle of our Constitution.” The poll question and data are available at http://www.tfn.org/site/DocServer/TFNEF_EdPoll_GQRR_5.2010.pdf?docID.

The state board’s decision not to postpone adoption of the standards today came after board members made hundreds of changes at meetings in January, March and May to drafts submitted last fall by curriculum teams. Those teams of teachers and scholars drafted those standards over much of 2009. The board refused to invite academic experts to be present at those meetings to guide their work and review their amendments before voting.

“Parents have reason to be alarmed when politicians decide they know better than teachers and academic experts what our children should learn in their classrooms,” Miller said. “At the very least, the board should have appointed a panel of real experts to review these heavily revised standards for accuracy and appropriateness for our kids’
classrooms. But today politics triumphed over common sense as well as the education of our schoolchildren.”

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The Texas Freedom Network is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization of religious and community leaders who support religious freedom, public education and individual liberties.

 

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