“Christians Need Not Apply”

That is the title of a new screed by SBOE Rep. Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio. According to Mercer, the Senate is blocking the nomination of Don McLeroy as board chair not because his tenure has been an unmitigated disaster, but because McLeroy is — you guessed it — a Christian.

It is official; conservative Christians are unqualified and need not apply. It happened at the Miss USA Pageant and then at the Nominations Committee of the Texas State Senate.

(First of all, Mercer deserves credit for coming up with the most apt comparison to date for the level of intellectual debate at the Texas SBOE — a beauty pageant. The uninformed, vapid discourse at the board resembles nothing so much as a room full of beauty pageant contestants confidently asserting opinions on politics or world affairs. And both ellicit similar snickers and groans from the audience.)

But on to Mercer’s primary contention. Let’s unpack this a bit. Mercer and other self-described social conservatives on the board have regularly and vigorously insisted that their actions are NOT religiously motivated. Mercer does it again here:

As is obvious to all, there are zero references to faith, religion, creation, or intelligent design in the newly adopted Science standards.

But he goes on to insist that McLeroy is being attacked because of his faith! So senators should support McLeroy because he’s a good Christian?

Mercer wants it both ways here. He wants to drape McLeroy in the mantle of Christianity, holding him up as a Christian freedom fighter who is “willing to clearly and calmly state and stand by [his] Christian beliefs.”  But should anyone follow up with the obvious question about whether McLeroy or the board is attempting to use their authority to advance personal beliefs in public policy, Mercer cries “religious discrimination” and slanders those who oppose McLeroy as God-haters. (It is “atheists and secular humanists” who are attacking him!)

This is an example of the most cynical and corrosive use of faith — as a political weapon to divide people. Not to mention there is a litany of reasons to question McLeroy’s competence that have nothing to do with religion. (Just ask the state’s English-Language Arts teachers.)

The mere fact that it is ONLY the most extreme voices on the religious right that have ridden to McLeroy’s — and the SBOE’s — defense is instructive. The silence from mainstream academics, professional educators and moderate lawmakers is deafening.

For those who can stifle their gag reflex, Mercer’s full piece appears below.

Liberals Make It Official – Christians Need Not Apply

It is official; conservative Christians are unqualified and need not apply. It happened at the Miss USA Pageant and then at the Nominations Committee of the Texas State Senate.

Miss California and USA finalist Carrie Prejean was asked by judge Perez Hilton, an openly gay gossip blogger, whether she believed in gay marriage.  Prejean responded “We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite. And you know what, I think in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised.”

Keith Lewis, the co-director of the Miss California USA, told FoxNews.com: “I am personally saddened and hurt that Miss California believes marriage rights belong only to a man and a woman.”

Prejean could have publicly denied her faith when presented this politically and religiously biased question. Instead, she stood by her values and perhaps lost the crown.

On Wednesday April 22, the Nominations Committee of the Texas Senate held a hearing to confirm Dr. Don McLeroy (R- College Station) as Chairman of the State Board of Education (SBOE).

McLeroy chaired the SBOE as conservatives won numerous battles including explicit phonics, grammar, usage, spelling, expository and persuasive writing, research-writing, back-to-basics math, and new world-class science standards that allow students the freedom to ask questions in a classroom.

Democrats promised the media “fireworks” at the McLeroy hearing; but instead, the Democrats threw “bombs” that did not focus on qualifications, fairness, integrity, or leadership.  Instead, the issue turned to that of personal faith and values especially regarding the theory of evolution.

Liberal activists and evolutionists, including Kathy Miller of the left-leaning Texas Freedom Network, and anthropolgist, Dr. Wetherington of Southern Methodist University spoke in opposition to McLeroy’s nomination.

Miller referred to McLeroy is “a really nice man.”  Wetherington added that Mcleroy “always treated me fairly” and was “always fair in concucting all public testimony.”

Attorney Jonathan Saenz, reminding the Senate of the testimony of McLeroy’s opposition, stated: “Don McLeroy bent over backwards to be fair.” Saenz stated he believes the attacks are based on McLeroy’s personal religious convictions.

The Senate Nominations Committee was advised that all SBOE hearings are recorded and that the science experts who testified agreed publicly that Texas now has “world-class standards” for each area of science including Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Environmental Science.

The only concern verbalized by McLeroy’s opposition was that he wanted Texas students to have the freedom to discuss and question scientific theories honestly, including evolution.

But the affirming bi-partisan testimony of McLeroy’s fairness and integrity as SBOE chairman did not convince Democrat Senators. For example, one read a statement on creation attributed to McLeroy made at Grace Bible Church in College Station.

McLeroy replied, “Well, that’s what I teach my 4th grade Sunday school class.”  When prompted again he responded: “That is my personal belief.”

McLeroy correctly noted that his personal faith in no way impacted the adoption of the science standards. Anyone who doubts his statement is free to review online the new “world-class standards” posted at www.TEA.State.Tx.us.   As is obvious to all, there are zero references to faith, religion, creation, or intelligent design in the newly adopted Science standards (TEKS).

Were Democrat Senators attempting to force McLeroy to deny his faith publicly?  Do conservative convictions, despite evidence of one’s tolerance and integrity, disqualify a Christian from public office?

Ronnie Killough wrote to the SBOE:

“I wanted to write to you [McLeroy] and express my sincerest appreciation to you for having the courage to stand by your convictions during your recent hearing.  It is unfortunately rare, today, to see anyone willing to clearly and calmly state and stand by their Christian beliefs, particularly in the face of abuse such as what you took.”

Democrats never questioned the overwhelming presence and impact of Texas and California atheists and secular humanists who testified frequently during the public hearings on the Science TEKS. The only religious philosophy on the minds of the Democrat Senators was that of Dr. Don  McLeroy’s.

It will be interesting to see which Senators vote against Dr. Don McLeroy’s nomination. The public who recognizes and dislikes religious discrimination will be watching.

Hon. Ken Mercer
Member: Texas State Board of Education
P.O. Box 781301  San Antonio, Texas  78278-1301

19 thoughts on ““Christians Need Not Apply”

  1. Aside from being dishonest (not a great trait for a Christian, but a common one for far right fundamentalists and ideologues), Mercer needs years of therapy.

  2. Mercer’s argument is as dishonest as it can be. There are so many falsehoods in it, I don’t know where to begin to refute it. It is so laughable that I can’t believe he had gall enough to write it.

    It stands by itself as ridiculous to any average reader. No comments are necessary.

  3. It’s an article of faith among many social conservatives that the US is a Christian country founded on Christian values, that religious Christians are being persecuted for their beliefs, and that it’s the duty of all good Christians to fight back against “socialistic and humanistic” influences. Cynthia Dunbar’s book makes this extremely clear. On the very first page, she equates the plight of American Christians today to that of German Jews under Hitler.

    I don’t know which is more frightening, the idea that Mercer and Dunbar are cynically pushing these paranoid fantasies for political reasons, or the possibility that they really believe what they write.

  4. Wait, I thought Mercer maintained that the “strengths and weaknesses” bit had nothing to do with religion. Is it about religion, or is it not? I’m sure Mr. Mercer and Dr. McLeroy couldn’t have been LYING when they said it wasn’t about religion.

  5. “As is obvious to all, there are zero references to faith, religion, creation, or intelligent design in the newly adopted Science standards.”

    Mr Mercer, since when are references to faith and religion supposed to be in the science standards? They’re *science* standards, right?

    Does Mr Mercer actually live in fifteenth-century Spain, perhaps?

  6. Mercer seems to think there’s a difference between teaching a religion and teaching the beliefs of the religion.

    The fundamentalists on the board vote lock-step enough to override the less predictable remainder of the board. They have successfully mandated that their extremist beliefs be taught in public schools, and this is why the rest of the country is rankling it’s nose.

    Elected officials are politicians, and when politicians decide the curriculum, politics decides the curriculum. Experts are heeded only when it’s expedient to do so. Do we want our children to grow up experts on political climate or experts on the frontiers of knowledge?

    After listening to some of the McLeroy nomination hearing, I’m inclined to think that the legislature is mistakenly laying all the blame on McLeroy. Simply choosing another chairperson will be as effective as simply removing the word “weaknesses” from the science TEKS. It’s a convenient scapegoat for the actual problem, and while the change might satisfy some short-term political urge, it will fix little.

    There is only one solution. Authority over curriculum and textbooks needs to be taken away from politicians and given to experts. Any change short of this is political cowardice and risking Texas’ ability to compete in this fast-evolving world.

  7. Mercer’s dissembling in this screed is pathetic. McLeroy plots in his church to undermine modern science, proposes garbled science standard language using quote-mine garbage from a Creationist website, and then Mercer claims McLeroy’s faith is not impacting science standards. Pathetic, absolutely pathetic!

  8. There IS a difference between teaching a religion and teaching the beliefs of a religion. When you’re teaching the religion, you’re saying “This is what it right.” When you’re teaching the beliefs, you’re saying “This is what the followers of the religion believe.” However, neither one belongs in a science curriculum. Arguing about teaching religion in public schools misses the whole point. You don’t teach botany in auto shop. You don’t teach a religious idea in a science class, even if it were the truth. End of friggen story.

    This dweeb admitted that’s what McLeroy was trying to do when he equated being asked about Creationism to being asked about his faith. If Creationism is science, then the best charge he can level is that McLeroy is being censured because he believes teaching a theory that has not been accepted by the science community, something that, were it not Creationism, McLeroy would also censure against.

    Science doesn’t accept Creationism. If you want to dispute that, then the battleground is NOT a school board. It is in the field of science itself. Find the evidence and publish, just like every other crackpot with a hypothesis.

  9. We shouldn’t be so harsh on Mercer. He’s just plain stupid and can barely put two thoughts together. I have never read anything from Mercer that made any sense whatsoever. I can only imagine that when he ran for SBOE that the vote was 1-0 and he voted for himself.

  10. Hey TFN, be sure to show Mercers column to ALL House and Senate members. It will dispell any doubt in their minds that the SBOE is extremist and must be reigned in.

    Ken Mercer is his own worst enemy. He just gave the Legislature all the amunition it needs to strip the SBOE of its power due to incompetence and extremism. They can then easily see that the SBOE canot be trusted to rationally make decisions in the best interest of the children of Texas.

    Thank you Ken Mercer!!!! We couldn’t have done it without you.

  11. Joe Lapp nailed it and it bears repetition: “There is only one solution. Authority over curriculum and textbooks needs to be taken away from politicians and given to experts. Any change short of this is political cowardice and risking Texas’ ability to compete in this fast-evolving world.”

    Are you listening, Legislature?

  12. How dense do you have to be to write something like this that antagonizes the Legislature as they are sitting in judgement of you preparing to vote to strip your power and authority away?

    He doesn’t have any sense of the political atmosphere.
    He doesn’t have any sense of how they are percieved.
    He doesn’t have any sense of how people see how he misrepresents facts.

    He just doesn’t have any sense.

  13. All the other board members are Christians too, and one of them is going to replace McLeroy as chair. There goes that argument.

  14. Mercer asserted that the experts who testified before the SBOE agreed that Texas now had “world class” standards. As one of the SBOE expert reviewers I never made such a claim or statement. I doubt that other states and nations will be clamoring to “enrich” their standards using the amendments added by the SBOE during the final approval process. Also, I doubt that the writing committees that spent considerable amount to time developing the initial set of standards would agree that the amendments strengthened the TEKS and, in their final form, became a model for the world.

    Ken Mercer alleges that he is a champion of academic freedom for students and teachers. However, his view of academic freedom is tainted. Academic freedom is about freedom from outside restrictions. It’s not freedom of the teacher or student to say or emphasize anything they desire. As I indicated in my testimony, the SBOE has restricted what can be taught in health education and environmental science courses in recent years. Student opportunities to learn about contraceptives, global warming, and other topics considered taboo by the SBOE have been restricted in recent years. Ken Mercers voting record on the SBOE is in contrast to his often repeated statement that it’s no longer the United States of America if students can’t ask questions and freely discuss matter.

  15. Mr. Mercer fails to note that Mr. McLeroy’s has publicly stated that the earth is 6000 to 10,000 years old thereby disputing experts of several important scientific disciplines that have nothing to do with evolution. By disputing scientists in so many disciplines of which he is not a student he shows his contempt for the scientific method. I have a problem with someone who denies the validity of numerous fields of scientific study and conclusions making decisions about how science is taught in Texas classrooms.

    In order for Mr. McElroy to believe in a young earth he must therefore deny the study of geology and plate tectonics from which we know that the earth is many millions of years old not just a few thousand. He must also deny the conclusions of archaeologists, paleontologists and anthropologists who have determined that the earliest humans reached the shores of Australia about 50,000 years ago, five times as long ago as Mr. McElroy thinks the earth has existed.

    Mr. McElroy also has to believe that the method of determining the age of organic materials known as carbon dating is incorrect by an astronomical amount. Speaking of astronomy Mr. McElroy must then also deny the validity of much of what is known about the rest of the universe as it is generally accepted that the universe and earth are both many millions of years old.

    What with so much of science denied by Mr. McElroy he seems to me to be singularly unqualified to be making decisions about how Texas school children are taught science.

    You’ll notice I never once questioned his right to hold religious beliefs.

  16. conservative Christians are unqualified and need not apply

    Shoot, he didn’t need to go any farther than that. I take this as an axiom.

  17. Mercer should have said “conservative Christians are unqualified and need not apply” if they intend to ignore established science, mix their religion with politics in violation of the secular responsibilities of their elected office, and push their extreme religious beliefs on other peoples children.

    He implies that the Legislature is not predominately Christian. He knows better. The Legislature has had its fill of Christians behaving badly.

  18. Christians Need Not Apply-Regarding Texas Politics- As is often the case with evangelical atheists, they totally miss the point. There is a moral and scientific truth and there should be scientific investigations to find that truth regardless of political party. Intelligent design is based on science yet is not tolerated by the majority of practicing scientists because it challenges their accepted and biased beliefs. Tolerance is a word they like to apply but it only applies one way, just like their thinking.