Pope Urban II may have sparked the Crusades by calling European Christians to war against Islam in the Middle Ages. But now, in starkly warlike language, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is calling on Texas pastors to defeat "radical jihadists" who threaten our nation's "Judeo Christian heritage." The governor's disturbing mix of faith and militancy comes in an invitation to conservative evangelical pastors to attend a Texas Restoration Project event in Austin next month: Both our nation and our Judeo Christian heritage are under attack by a force that is more dangerous than any threat our world has faced in recent memory. I am convinced that our ability to defeat the radical jihadists who threaten our nation will be significantly impacted by the prayers and leadership of America's evangelical pastors. . . .While Congress occupies its time trying to legislate defeat in Iraq, we hope you will attend a Pastors' Policy Briefing that will equip you to walk point in the war of values and ideas. . . . . . . (W)e must rally godly people and seek God's provision for the resources, the courage, and the strength necessary to win and, ultimately, glorify Him. Those of us raised to believe that Christianity is a religion of peace might be forgiven for wondering just what in the world the governor is thinking. You can read all of Gov. Perry's message at the end of this post. The Pastors' Policy Briefing on Oct. 9-10 in Austin will be the group's eighth since May 2005. Gov. Perry has been the featured speaker at all of them, including one to celebrate his reinauguration as governor in January 2007. In fact, he was the only candidate for governor invited to speak at Restoration Project "briefings" before the 2006 election. Thousands of pastors and their spouses from across the state attended these events free of charge. (You can read more about the Texas Restoration Project in a 2006 report from the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund. Gays and same-sex marriage were the major Restoration Project demons in 2005 and 2006. Muslims now appear to be the enemy du jour.) The Niemoller Foundation, a private foundation funded by voucher sugardaddy James Leininger and three other major Perry backers, covered the costs of those events -- at least $1.26 million for 2005. Earlier this year, the Texas Freedom Network asked the federal Internal Revenue Service to investigate whether the Niemoller Foundation violated tax laws by funding partisan political activities. The IRS has not responded to TFN's request. Read More
With the State Board of Education beginning its revision of science curriculum standards for Texas public schools, the battle over what to teach students about evolution will be heated. That debate has also been raging in other states, especially Kansas and, more recently, Florida. A report from the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund reviews how this debate has unfolded. At the center of controversy is the perception -- promoted disingenuously by religious fundamentalists -- that accepting the science of evolution is incompatible with faith in God. Of course, the Roman Catholic Church and many mainline Protestant denominations see no such conflict. Even so, regardless of what statewide curriculum standards require, teachers still have to bridge that manufactured divide, writes the New York Times in a fascinating article this past weekend. (I)n a nation where evangelical Protestantism and other religious traditions stress a literal reading of the biblical description of God’s individually creating each species, students often arrive at school fearing that evolution, and perhaps science itself, is hostile to their faith. Some come armed with “Ten questions to ask your biology teacher about evolution,” a document circulated on the Internet that highlights supposed weaknesses in evolutionary theory. Others scrawl their opposition on homework assignments. Many just tune out. With a mandate to teach evolution but little guidance as to how, science teachers are contriving their own ways to turn a culture war into a lesson plan. How they fare may bear on whether a new generation of Americans embraces scientific evidence alongside religious belief. The Times looks at one Florida teacher on the front lines in the clash between science and faith. David Campbell, a biology teacher and church-going Anglican, was part of the committee that added instruction on evolution to Florida's science curriculum standards earlier this year. Florida had never required that students learn about evolution and its importance as the organizing principle of life science, and the debate over doing so was bitter. In fact, observers expect the Florida Legislature to introduce a bill in its next session to permit teachers to teach about alternative concepts such as "intelligent design" (essentially biblical creationism dress up in a lab coat but based on not a shred of science). Read More
In a surprising turn of events, Pew Research Center is reporting that:
Some Americans are having a change of heart about mixing religion and politics. A new survey finds a narrow majority of the public saying that churches and other houses of worship should keep out of political matters and not express their views on day-to-day social and political matters. For a decade, majorities of Americans had voiced support for religious institutions speaking out on such issues.
Indeed, in just four years the number of conservatives who wish to keep religion out of politics has grown 20 percent (from 30 to 50 percent). Amazing.
Host a house party and screen an award-winning documentary, Kansas vs. Darwin, which chronicles creationist efforts to undermine what schoolchildren learn about evolution in their science classrooms. Kansas vs. Darwin looks specifically at what happened when religious extremists took control of the State Board of Education in Kansas. The resulting battle against sound science threatened the education of Kansas schoolchildren, demoralized teachers and continues to ripple through the state’s electoral politics. That debate is now shifting to Texas, where the creationist-controlled State Board of Education is considering new curriculum standards for public school science classes.
Screening Kansas vs. Darwin at your house party is a simple but effective way to educate friends about efforts by extremists to promote their personal religious views over all others and undermine sound science education. Texas Freedom Network will give you the support and tools you need to educate friends about the Stand Up for Science campaign, including a Kansas vs. Darwin DVD, promotional materials and suggestions for taking action.
Today is the deadline to sponsor the Texas Freedom Network’s 13th Annual Celebration. All of the work we do — from battling religious extremists on the State Board of Education to defending religious freedom, civil liberties and public education in the Legislature — depends on the support we get from people who share these mainstream values.
This year’s party — our biggest annual event — is Oct. 4 at La Zona Rosa in downtown Austin. You don’t want to miss the great music, Austin’s best silent auction and the opportunity to gather with so many other supporters of mainstream values TFN promotes throughout the year.
The Texas Freedom Network is the only broad-based, grassroots organization dedicated to fighting the religious right in this state. Of course, it’s easy in an election year to overlook the important battles over public policy outside the campaign arena. We hope you won’t. An important session of the Texas Legislature is just months away, and we’re on the eve of a critical debate on the State Board of Education over whether our kids’ science education will be held hostage to the fanaticism of religious extremists. Please take this opportunity to help ensure that the mainstream… Read More