Not Encouraging

We were worried that Carlos “Charlie” Garza, who defeated Democratic incumbent Rene Nuñez, would align with the Texas State Board of Education‘s far-right faction. A newspaper interview with the El Paso Republican isn’t encouraging.

According to the El Paso Times interview, which was published November 7, Garza thinks public schools should teach “multiple views” about evolution — regardless, apparently, of the mainstream scientific consensus — and supports efforts by anti-science board members to water down instruction on this foundational scientific concept:

“Creationism I believe is true. I believe there should be a good mix. I think what the board did was bring in a mix.”

Garza also thinks Thomas Jefferson, who authored the Declaration of Independence and championed separation of church and state as essential to religious freedom, was not an important political philosopher. You might recall that far-right board members have argued that Jefferson wasn’t an influential Enlightenment thinker. Garza oddly credits Jefferson, whose political arguments have inspired supporters of political and religious freedom for centuries, for something else entirely:

“I see him as a historian who did a lot of things for his country, but not a philosopher.”

And in a state with one of the highest teen birthrates in the nation, Garza thinks sex education has no place in public schools:

“I believe it belongs in the home. I don’t think we should be addressing that issue. We are not the children’s parents.”

Oh yes, and that approach is working so well in a state in which nine in ten school districts fail to teach students medically accurate information about responsible pregnancy and STD prevention.

Garza also reveals in the interview that Gov. Rick Perry asked him to run for the state board. We find that interesting because Gov. Perry has often dismissed questions about the board’s controversial efforts to politicize classrooms by claiming that he doesn’t want to interfere with the responsibilities of other elected officials. The reality is that Gov. Perry has done much to aid a takeover of the board by radicals more interested in promoting personal and political agendas than in ensuring that Texas schoolchildren get a sound education. After all, he has twice appointed radicals — Don McLeroy and Gail Lowe — as chair of the board. And now he has recruited a board member who is hostile to sound science, misinformed about history and tragically indifferent to the teen pregnancy crisis in Texas.

As we said, not encouraging.

13 thoughts on “Not Encouraging

  1. Hi Lynn. Welcome to TFN Insider. Although I could be wrong, it appears that I am the resident Christian responder on this blog.

    I looked at your blog. You appear to be one of the overwhelming majority of former Christian fundamentalists that I encounter who worked hard to obey to the letter the last stated requirement of fundamentalist doctrine, that being, “If you should ever at any time conclude that all the religious crap we have been feeding you is incorrect in even the slightest bit, then you have no other choice but to reject God entirely. This is what you must do. There is no other choice.”

    It disappoints me every time I see this because it allows the fundamentalists to win their argument with the person who complies and in the eyes of any spectators that happen to be watching. Why be so compliant? Why affirm what they believe with your last act? Why give their pastors the pleasure of that poop-eating, all-knowing, self-righteous look on their faces as you walk away from them.

    I am an anthropologist, and this subject absolutely fascinates me, so much so that I have been thinking about doing a formal anthropological study on it. The problem is getting current fundamentalists and former fundamentalists to talk about the subject and their experiences. I have tried interviewing people, but I run into amazing and unexpected barriers that unravel the whole thing before it can even get started. The reason, best I can tell, is that the Christian fundamentalist belief system retains a POWERFUL GRIP on the life of everyone who has rejected it and walked away. They claim that they have washed their hands of it, but it is obvious to me that it still controls almost everything they do.

    Let me give you a brief example. I recently tried to do an interview with a highly educated and articulate British man who had rejected Christian fundamentalism in favor of atheism. I expected an intelligent and thoughtful conversation that would lead to vast insights into why he had left the fold, what was wrong with fundamentalism that made him leave, how his thoughts had changed on matters of scripture over time, his former views on God versus his currents ones, and so forth. I even asked some pointed scriptural questions to try to tap deeply into an understanding of what had happened and take its pulse, blood pressure, heart rate, and reflexes—or so i thought. Basically, I was looking for a balanced and simple account of how someone had made their way out of that crazy and dark spiritual world where no one laughs and everyone fears.

    Man!!! Was I ever disappointed!!! He wrote back to me agreeing on a series of interviews. However, he failed to directly address the initial questions I had asked, basically touching on them but really glancing off them. Then he launched into a scriptural discussion that absolutely floored me. Basically, according to him, the Christian fundamentalists have the right view of God and what He is like (if he exists) and the correct understanding of scripture. I cannot go into all of it here in detail, but he was in many ways affirming Christian fundamentalist thought and understanding. I can briefly sum up his words like this: “I rejected Christian fundamentalism because I got to know what the correct scriptural view of God is and could not live with following that anymore.” In other words, he rejected Christian fundamentalism, became an atheist, but remains totally and irretrievable in the grip of Christian fundamentalist theology. I guess his parents and their church pumped it into him from Day 1, and he is unable to escape it even as an declared atheist. In fact, I sensed that even he does not understand what a tight grip it still has on him and his life. It must be something like being a former member of the Borg collective—even though you are gone from them—they are never gone from you.

    What was your personal experience, and just why did you obey (hook, line, and sinker) the last great requirement of Christian fundamentalist theology?

  2. This state is so full of ignorance — and, by golly, the SBOE is going to see to it that it stays that way. It really pains me to pay my school taxes to a school system which will be miseducating our young people. In principle, I’m happy to pay my school taxes, but to see them used wrongfully is disheartening.

  3. Carlos Garza is simply another American duped by the “farright faction” which also promotes the unconstitutional proposition that “religion” has an institutional place in America’s public schools, as well as in government. That understanding continues to be promoted even by some “separationists” who erroneously insist upon using misleading terminology in respect to the constitutional principle regarding religion in the USA. There is absolutely no use of the wording “church and state” in the Constitution, as Glenn Beck and the witch from Delaware so clearly pointed out in the recent election. And, continued insistence upon the use of Thomas Jefferson as an important political philosopher, outside of the independent state of Virginia, continues to mislead Americans and distort history in terms of about what America is in regard to its constitutional principle respecting religion.

    My two major fields of study at the university and seminary levels, M.Div., have been religion and history, including special graduate school study in history at Pittsburg State University. So, allow me to repeat, Jefferson left the USA in 1784 and did not return until 1789. He was in France in 1787, when the Constitution was drafted in a secret meeting in Philadelphia, and was not a member of the First Congress in 1789 when a joint senate-house conference committee, consisting of six members of Congress, three from each legislative branch of government (House and Senate), drafted the wording of the First Amendment. There is to be “no religious test for public office,” Art. 6, and “religion,” First Amendment,” is not to be established by Congress or law at any level of government.

    Thomas Jefferson is not a “Founding Father,” see Webster’s Dictionary, and had absolutely nothing to do with writing the Constitution or the First Amendment. Both of those documents of history were drafted without the personal hand or input of Jefferson in anyway whatsoever. Jefferson was not a part of the Constitutional Convention of 1787 or of the First Congress in 1789 when the First Congress, via a six member senate-house conference committee, which included James Madison, drafted and approved the First Amendment. Thomas Jefferson reported for duty as a member of President Washington’s staff in March, 1790. Is anyone listening? Hello?

    Apparently, American history is not being properly taught in America’s public schools because none of you on these TFN blogs, including Dan, seem to comprehend the specific history of the Constitution or the First Amendment: that history does not include Thomas Jefferson, and neither document, the Constitution nor the First Amendment, includes the words “church and state.” When is TFN going to admit that fact of history? When I have attempted to communicate with TFN, including its President, with Americans United for Separation, or with ARL, etc., I get rejected as if my position is historically incorrect.

    Yes, the Texas Board of Education is obviously attempting to misstate the facts of history, but so is TFN, AU, ARL, ACLU, BJCPA, FFRF, TIA, UUA, etc., etc. etc. I changed my constitutional debate terminology years ago, after leaving the staff of Americans United for Separation in the mid 1970s and, ever since, my lectures on the subject of separation have insisted upon using the actual wording in the Constitution, which word is “religion,” not “church.” I have never lost that debate.

    So, if TFN and other separationists wish to defeat the “religious right,” in the public and intellectual debate, then don’t think of “church” when articulating the constitutional principle of “separation between Religion and Government, ” James Madison, W&MQ 3:555. What is going to take, Dan, to get you and TFN to comprehend that actual fact? No wonder the Texas Board of Education is confused. So is TFN. However, when I have attempted to personally communicate this constitutional point with the President of TFN or the other organizations listed above, I get no intelligent response. The addiction to Jefferson’s wording is a result of poor public education throughout the nation, which is a part of why the Teaparty won the last election, as well as why I wrote my recent book: The Religion Commandments in the Constitution: A Primer.

    Oh, have I not mentioned that the Declaration of Independence, mentioned above by Dan, which Jefferson did write, in 1776, is not a legal founding document and it has no legal standing in a court of law? No one goes to a court of law and base a legal argument upon the words of the Declaration of Independence. I also spent a year in law school. My internet link is .

  4. Charles: you might find Altemeyer and Hunsberger’s Amazing Conversions of interest.

    Gene: the Constitution does not include the phrases “limited government”, “separation of powers”, nor “checks and balances” either. However, these were phrases used by the authors of those documents to give name to the ideas that they expressed in the Constitution and Bill of Rights… much like the phrase “separation of Church and State”.

    Moderators: the lack of a preview button is still @#$%ing annoying.

  5. What this shows is that TFN and its allies need to recruit candidates for both the GOP and DEM primaries in each of the SBOE seats rather than be only active in Democrat circles, and arrogantly dismiss a district as unwinnable by the other side. For about $1000 in expenditure, a mainstream candidate probably could have won the obscure GOP primary in that district. Alternately, you could have engaged folks like the candidate who defeated Miller in Dallas, and this guy earlier in the process to at least know better their positions on the issues so that this could be communicated to voters.

    1. We have not “arrogantly dismissed” any district as unwinnable by any party or faction. We have worked with, and will continue to work with, mainstream candidates and officeholders from any party (both on the SBOE and in the Legislature). But we also have to decide where best to direct our limited resources. We wish TFN had the power to direct the outcome of elections or to foresee outcomes that no other political observers could predict either, but we don’t. In any case, four of six religious-right candidates in contested SBOE races lost this year. That is encouraging news.

  6. Um, back to Carlos Charlie Garza: Well, really, what did you expect from a Republican? Republican and Science have become an oxymoron.

    I went to Mr. Garza’s website and found this (copied and pasted):

    “The law (TEC 28.002 referenced in the TEKS) stipulates that social studies student curriculum include instruction in geography, government, Texas, United States, and world history (TEC 28.002(a)(1)(D)). The law further requires emphasis in citizenship, patriotism, and the free-market system.

    The current TEKS has strayed from its original mandates. Since we are a nation of laws it is the SBOE’s inherent responsibility to comply. Moreover, state law (Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 478, Sec. 1) specifically stipulates the teaching of character traits including:

    Accountability, caring, charity, compassion, concern for the common good and the community, consideration, courage, courtesy, diligence, empathy, fairness, freedom from prejudice, generosity, good citizenship, honesty, integrity, justice, kindness, loyalty, patience, patriotism, perseverance, punctuality, reliability, respect for authority and the law, respect and responsibility, self-control and trustworthiness.”

    MY COMMENTS: ‘Citizenship’ I think is fairly self-explanatory. But wouldn’t it be nice if someone would define ‘patriotism’? What does it mean to be patriotic? And how does patriotism differ from nationalism?

    And what’s with the adoration of the “free market system”? What’s so freakin’ great about the freakin’ free market system? We’ve had it for years, and look where it’s gotten us!! I have a good full-time job and earn a good salary yet I’m only just about able to keep my head above water, living paycheck to paycheck and just barely!

    As for the character traits, I find it hilarious that State Law considers such things be taught in school! You’d think the Righties would be defecating bricks that such traits should be taught in school and not in the HOME! Oh, but aren’t they clever at making exceptions?

  7. Say what?

    Here is a comment worthy of the “far right” members on the Texas Board of Education, as quoted from above: “the Constitution does not include the phrases “limited government”, “separation of powers”, nor “checks and balances” either. However, these were phrases used by the authors of those documents to give name to the ideas that they expressed in the Constitution and Bill of Rights… much like the phrase “separation of Church and State”.

    The authors of the Constitution did NOT include Thomas Jefferson, and the words “church and state” are NOT in the Constitution. No wonder the general public is confused? “Religion” was disestablished in the government of the USA from its very beginning in 1787, via Art. 6., and by addition of the First Amendment in 1789.

    It is a confusing debate argument to suggest it is okay to teach what the Constitution means by using words which are not in the Constitution. The Founding Fathers and the six men who personally drafted the words of the Constitution and the First Amendment understood English, The words “church and state” are not in the Constitution. The distorted argument used by our opposition is based upon words which do not exist in the Constitution.

    So, the simple and unchallengeable retort to such a distorted argument is: what does the First Amendment word “thereof” mean? The free exercise of a “church”? That is, did the men who drafted and approved the wording of the First Amendment really say and mean “the free exercise” of a “church”? If you comprehend English grammar, there is no way in Hades any grammar professor will allow any student of the English language to rape the meaning of “thereof,” in the First Amendment, to mean “church.”

    The word “thereof” can mean only that to which it refers. In the First Amendment, the word “thereof” refers to “religion.” English grammar 101.

    For TFN, which claims to be concerned about education, to continue to distort what the Constitution actually says, in its own words, is to use the same distorted revisionist logic of the “Far Right” faction in our society. Furthermore, such distortion of the Constitution’s wording, without question, confuses the general public understanding of what the Constitution literally says. The Founding Fathers and the First Congress got the wording exactly as intended, using correct grammar, from the beginning. They wrote what they meant and meant what they wrote. Further, “what is directly prohibited cannot be indirectly permitted, lest the Establishment Clause become a mockery.”

    Not only is it incorrect grammar to use the word “church” in understanding the word “thereof,” in the Establishment Clause, it is faulty debate logic, which is why the public is confused and why Republican “right wing” nuts like Beck and the Delaware witch are leaders of our opponent’s debate team. For example, on page 17 of Beck’s newest book, BROKE, he teaches his flock, “the United States was founded on Judeo-Christian principles.” Beck makes millions of dollars selling that lie. Why?

    Too many “separationists” also continue to improperly frame the argument by distorting what the Constitution actually says.

  8. Gene Garman: The authors of the Constitution did NOT include Thomas Jefferson

    And I didn’t mention Jefferson. James Madison, generally considered the prime mover behind both the Constitution and Bill of Rights, also adopted the phrase.

  9. The word in the supreme law of the land is “religion,” regardless of what anyone says. Virginia had a state church. The USA does not. The constitutional word “religion” includes but does not mean just “church.” The Constitution does not include the words “church and state.” Glenn Beck and the witch from Delaware are correct. It is way past time for separationists to also correctly understand what the Constitution actually says and to stop using the “church and state” wording, which is not in the Constitution and distorts the proper understanding of “religion,” the whole meaning thereof.

    “Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies, may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history,” James Madison, W&MQ 3:555, c. 1817. KISS.