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The Texas Education Agency’s former science curriculum director, Christine Comer, has filed a federal lawsuit charging that the agency’s policy of neutrality on teaching biblical creationism is unconstitutional. You might recall that TEA forced Comer to resign last fall after she forwarded an e-mail to colleagues and others outside the agency about an Austin talk by Prof. Barbara Forrest of Southeastern Louisiana University. Forrest is an expert on the movement to promote “intelligent design”/creationism as an alternative to evolution in public schools. TEA directors claimed that forwarding the e-mail about Forrest’s lecture created the perception that the agency opposed teaching “intelligent design”/creationism rather than remaining neutral on the controversial topic. In her lawsuit, Forrest points out that federal courts have ruled that teaching “intelligent design”/creationism in public schools unconstitutionally promotes religion. “The agency’s ‘neutrality’ policy has the purpose or effect of endorsing religion, and thus violates the Establishment Clause,” the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit comes as the State Board of Education — itself chaired by a biblical creationist — prepares to begin debate over revising the curriculum standards for Texas public… Read More

The rest of the nation seems to be having second thoughts about the religious right’s radical agenda, but you wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at the Texas Republican Party platform adopted earlier this month. Religious extremists who control the party are doubling down, pushing a platform that’s as radical as any in the past. The Texas Freedom Network has analyzed the party platform here.

Here’s a taste of what Texas would look like under the GOP platform:… Read More

Oh, this should be fun. The Texas Republican Party Convention is this weekend in Houston, and already social conservatives are pushing the party to take official positions that are sure to alienate mainstream folks. One delegate argued that the party platform should include a plank calling for the removal of naked people in paintings and sculptures in the National Gallery of Art and other public places in the nation’s capital. “You don’t have nude art on your front porch,” he said, according to the Dallas Morning News. “You possibly don’t have nude art in your living rooms. So why is it important to have that in the common places of Washington, D.C.?” In an unusual example of moderation, the party platform committee voted against that plank.

Another delegate has argued against a plank calling affirmative action “simply racism disguised as social value.” That kind of language, he said, would alienate African Americans and keep them from joining the GOP. (Gee. You think?) The platform commitee disagreed, keeping the language in the platform for now.

The platform, which the state party is set to adopt today, is likely to include support for teaching… Read More

The Free Market Foundation, the Plano-based Texas affiliate of James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, has a new pitch for donations — and don’t expect much in the way of truth.

Near the top of the list of whoppers in Free Market’s letter is a claim of victory in a lawsuit over a Bible class offered by the Ector County (Odessa) Independent School District in West Texas. “The district will permanently have a Bible course, with the Bible as the textbook, and may use additional outside resources as well,” Free Market crows in its letter. “Our victory was a huge setback for the ACLU’s national plans.”

Well, no. The American Civil Liberties Union sought to forbid the school district from using an error-riddled, blatantly sectarian Bible curriculum that promotes the religious views of Protestant Christian fundamentalists over everybody else’s. The ACLU succeeded. During mediation, school officials agreed to drop the curriculum of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools and develop an alternative set of class materials. So long as the district uses a curriculum that neither promotes nor attacks anyone’s religion, the district may continue to offer the course. (The Texas Freedom Network Education Fund released a report about the National Council’s dreadfulRead More

The California Supreme Court’s decision that two laws barring same-sex marriage violate that state’s constitution has, predictably, been followed by eruptions of fury from the far right. Kelly Shackelford of the Plano-based Free Market Foundation (Texas affiliate of the far-right Focus on the Family) said the decision was an example of “outrageous judicial activism. This exactly what could have happened in Texas if we hadn’t passed the Constitutional Amendment for marriage.” Texas voters passed that constitutional amendment in 2005 even though state law already barred same-sex marriages and state courts are dominated by Republicans opposed to such marriages.

Other far-right groups, such as Concerned Women for America, portrayed the decision as a betrayal of California voters who had passed a referendum (but not a constitutional amendment) on same-sex marriage in 2000. Supporters of Proposition 22 that year sought to close what they saw as a legal loophole that might permit state recognition of same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. Even so, prior to the California court’s new ruling, the state already recognized legal “domestic partnerships.” In addition, California lawmakers twice have passed measures legalizing marriage for same-sex couples, but the govenor has vetoed… Read More

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