State Board of Education
Attacking Religious Freedom: The Anti-Islam Resolution
Just months after recklessly politicizing new social studies curriculum standards, the Texas State Board of Education wasted no time manufacturing another political controversy. In September 2010, the board narrowly approved a resolution condemning alleged “pro-Islamic/anti-Christian bias” in social studies textbooks. Opposition to this resolution was bipartisan. Three Democrats (Rick Agosto, Lawrence Allen, Mavis Knight) and three Republicans (Bob Craig, Pat Hardy, Geraldine “Tincy” Miller) voted to reject the resolution. But the board’s far-right members voted, as they almost always do, as a bloc to pass it. With two Democrats absent, the board approved the resolution 7-6.
Additional information about this resolution and the board debate can be found below and in the following entries from TFN Insider blog:
The resolution was originally introduced in July by a failed state board candidate, Randy Rives of Odessa. Here is a short clip of Rives introducing his resolution in July, comparaing the “pro-Islam” agenda in textbooks to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s declaration that he would take over America without firing a shot:
The resolution included a variety of false claims designed to demonstrate the alleged bias in high school world history textbooks published in 1999. Supporters went so far as to claim that wealthy Muslim investors are buying into publishing companies so that they can take over the minds of American schoolchildren. Texas Freedom Network analysis showed that the resolution and its supporting materials were based on superficial and grossly misleading claims. Further, the textbooks targeted by the resolution weren't even being used in Texas classrooms.
This resolution was simply the latest in a string of examples of state board members putting politics ahead of expertise and refusing to consider the advice of real scholars before doing something provocative and divisive. Indeed, the board consulted no scholars or other experts for public advice about the resolution. Moreoever, the resolution claimed that the board has the authority to reject any proposed textbooks that do not deal with Christianity and Islam as board members desire. As a result, this measure represented an end-run around Texas law barring the board from editing or censoring textbooks.
The Texas Freedom Network believes textbooks should treat all religions with respect and dignity. This ill-considered resolution, however, was simply a thinly veiled attempt to generate fear and promote religious intolerance. And more than this, it involved our children in a divisive political debate that has no place in Texas classrooms.
The Texas Faith Network sponsored an open letter from Texas clergy calling on the state board to reject this inflammatory resolution. More than 100 religious leaders from around the state signed onto the letter, which was presented to board members prior to the final vote.