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News that Alaska governor and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s unmarried, 17-year-old daughter is pregnant has once again focused attention on the debate over sex education in the United States. The religious right’s attacks against responsible sex education have been accompanied — with strong support from the Bush administration — by increased funding for programs that teach abstinence-only-until-marriage. Yet the nation’s teen birth rate is rising again, and Texas — where state law emphasizes abstinence education — has the highest teen birth rate among the 50 states.

Now a USA Today article looks at the sorry state of sex education in America:

[T]here’s no systematic tracking of what U.S. schools are teaching kids about sex — and either way, there seems to be little connection between what they’re taught and their behaviors, researchers say.

“As much as we fight about sex education, we actually know very little about it in the real world,” says Sarah Brown, CEO of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.… Read More

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TFN Insider is currently under maintenance. Our recent posts are still available for viewing, but you will run into some kinks in the design.

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Weekly newspapers often do a good job covering complex topics because reporters have the time and space to research and develop their stories. The Fort Worth Weekly offers a good example this week. If you want a broad examination of the debate over new science curriculum standards and what Texas public school students should learn about evolution, this article by writer Laurie Barker James is a an excellent primer. James takes the reader through the debate and the consequences that lie ahead for Texas if religious extremists on the State Board of Education succeed in undermining instruction on evolution. The crux of the controversy: whether creationists on the state board will succeed in forcing science teachers to tell students the evolution is "just a theory" that is riddled with "weaknesses." Never mind, of course, that creationists are distorting what "theory" means in science. And don't bother trying to remind them that mainstream scientists have repeatedly debunked creationist-fabricated "weaknesses" of the theory of evolution. They don't care. Read More

The following article by Frederick Clarkson is crossposted with permission from Talk to Action. One of the major tactics in the political development of the Religious Right over the past few decades has been abuse of the IRS non-profit tax code which, simply put, proscribes electioneering by 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations, including churches. Recently, the Alliance Defense Fund, the Scottsdale, AZ-based headquarters for the Religious Right's strategic legal ininitiatives, has encouraged mass law breaking by Religious Right-aligned churches in the run up to the 2008 elections. Not content to have one church do it as a test case challenge to the constitutionality of the law, they want to get maximum political impact along the way. The main event will be high profile political sermons on September 28th preached in as many churches as they can get. Read More

So-called “maverick” Republican presidential candidate John McCain skewered religious-right leaders in 2000 as “agents of intolerance.” Yet he has spent the past year groveling for support from religious-right pooh-bahs like the Rev. Rod Parsley of Ohio and the Rev. John Hagee of San Antonio. Of course, McCain was finally forced to repudiate Parsley and Hagee because of their hateful diatribes against Muslims, Jews and Roman Catholics. But when McCain floated the possibility that he might choose a vice presidential nominee who supports abortion rights, religious-right leaders made it crystal clear that they would find such a decision unacceptable. So his surprise choice today of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for the GOP vice presidential nomination looks like a total surrender to the religious right.

First, Palin is an opponent of gay marriage and a woman’s right to choose whether to have an abortion, according to the Washington Post:

On her campaign Web site, she described herself as a “conservative Republican” who believes firmly in free market capitalism, as well as a “lifetime member of the NRA” with a strong commitment to gun rights. She also said she opposes abortion and believes that “marriage should only be… Read More

Science March Austin

Unfortunately, Saturday’s #SciMarchATX has been canceled. The weather forecast shows rain and potentially heavy thunderstorms. We’re disappointed and we know you are, too. We hope you’ll continue to support students, scientists and educators. We pledge to do the same. pic.twitter.com/qatD…

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