How the Religious Right Is Pushing Propaganda in Texas Social Studies Classrooms
Dan Quinn printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Apr 30, 2009 at 05:44:53 PM EST
We are delighted to welcome Dan Quinn, Communications Director of the Texas Freedom Network, as a guest front pager. His post is a reminder that the culture war remains hot as a wildfire and is being waged on many fronts. -- FC

In March the Texas State Board of Education succeeded in opening public school science classrooms to creationist attacks on evolution. Having done what it could to muck up the science curriculum, the board's far-right bloc is now moving to politicize the state's social studies classrooms. How? By stacking an important "expert" curriculum panel with religious extremists like David Barton and the Rev. Peter Marshall -- two prominent names in the movement to destroy church-state separation and convince Americans that the country should be run on conservative Christian biblical principles.

Christian conservatives who control the Texas board appear set to name both Barton and Marshall -- along with conservative American University law professor Daniel Dreisbach and three others -- to the "expert" panel despite their lack of formal academic training in the social sciences. Worse than being absurdly unqualified, however, are extremist political agendas promoted by the two.

Founder of the Christian-right advocacy group WallBuilders, Barton also served as vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party from 1997 to 2006. His tenure there saw the state GOP lurch ever further to the right. The Texas GOP platform, in fact, has become a biennial exercise in extremism, with attacks on church-state separation (a "myth"), science and science education, gay and lesbian families, and reproductive rights. Barton also worked in 2004 for the Republican National Committee, recruiting conservative pastors into the GOP.

Barton is a self-styled “historian” although he lacks any formal training in the field. In addition to attacking separation of church and state, he argues that the nation’s laws and public policies should be based on Scripture. He says, for example, that the Bible forbids taxes on income and capital gains.

Barton also acknowledges having used in his publications and speeches nearly a dozen quotes he has attributed to the nation’s Founders even though he can’t identify any primary sources showing that they really said them. Even so, those dubious quotes have become regular ammunition in theist arguments that the Founders never wanted church-state separation, instead intending to create a Christian nation based on the Bible.

Barton also seems to have associated with white supremacist groups in the past. In 1991, for example, Barton spoke at events hosted by groups tied to white supremacists. He later said he hadn’t known the groups were “part of a Nazi movement.” Perhaps, but it's disturbing that someone characterized as a social studies "expert" didn't know he was speaking to white supremacists not just once, but twice. This "expert" also can't meet a basic academic standard of providing primary sources to back up his "research" into what he claims the Founders said and believed.

Almost as worrying for supporters of public education should be that Barton’s WallBuilders Web site suggests as a “helpful” resource a group called the National Association of Christian Educators/Citizens for Excellence in Education. Helpful? That organization urges Christian parents to abandon public schools, calling them places of "social depravity" and "spiritual slaughter."

Marshall, who runs the Massachusetts-based Peter Marshall Ministries, also has called on Christian parents to take their kids out of public schools. This supposed social studies "expert" also calls President Obama "wicked" and displays venomous contempt for people of other faiths. Last year in a call for a new "spiritual revival," for example, Marshall attacked Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, even calling mainstream Protestantism "an institutionally fossilized, Bible-rejecting shell of Christianity that is completely impotent against militant Islam."

Marshall's rhetoric is particularly heated on the subject of Islam:

If the Western world continues down this pathway of cultural accommodation the inevitable result will be the eventual triumph of Islam in our societies. Its victory will not come suddenly, as if an Islamic dagger had been stabbed into the heart, but slowly, from the bleeding of a thousand cultural cuts inflicted over the years.

The LGBT community fares little better, with Marshall blaming tolerance of homosexuality for everything from wildfires in California to Hurricane Katrina.

During a hearing on his confirmation as chairman of the Texas State Board of Education recently, creationist Don McLeroy told senators in Austin that he believed the social studies curriculum revision would be even more controversial and divisive than the battle over science standards had been. Now we know why.



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