Is David Bradley Betraying Anti-Muslim Extremists in Texas?

by Dan Quinn

Will we soon be hearing cries of betrayal from religious-righters who have been warning that Muslims are using charter schools to indoctrinate Texas kids?

Campaign finance reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission show that David Bradley, a leader of the creationist faction on the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE), received three late contributions in May to his re-election campaign from people associated with charters schools that religious-right groups claim promote radical Islam.

The contributions, which totaled $3,700, came from the chief operating officer of Harmony Public Schools, a principal at one of the Harmony schools in the Houston area and a Houston board member for an organization said to be associated with a major financial backer of those charter schools.

Groups like Texas Eagle Forum have claimed that Harmony financial backer — a wealthy Turkish Muslim man  named Fethullah Gulen who lives in Pennsylvania — is using the charter schools to indoctrinate American students in Turkish and Muslim culture. Insisting that the so-called “Gulen movement” is a radical threat to America, they almost succeeded in holding up approval of a state budget in 2011 when some legislators promoted their arguments that “Gulen schools” (Harmony) shouldn’t be getting public tax dollars in Texas.

Donna “Jeffrey Dahmer Believed in Evolution” Garner, a right-wing gadfly and supporter of Bradley and other members of the Texas SBOE’s creationist faction, has been especially hysterical in her attacks on Harmony schools. She claims that “Gulen schools (a.k.a., Harmony Schools in Texas) are deliberately targeting our public school students to indoctrinate them into anti-American, pro-Islam thinking.”

According to campaign finance records, Bradley received $2,000 from Mehmet Ozgel of Houston, a director of the Center for Turkish Studies, which right-wingers claim is a “Gulenist” organization. Bradley also received $1,200 from Erdal Caglar, a Missouri City resident and chief operating officer for Harmony Public Schools, and $500 from Stafford-resident Phoebe Taylor, principal of a Harmony school.

The timing of the contributions and when they were reported is interesting. Because the contributions came on Friday, May 25, and the following Monday was Memorial Day, Bradley wasn’t required to report them until Tuesday, May 29 — primary election day. He defeated challenger Rita Ashley of Beaumont in the GOP primary that day. So anti-Muslim hysterics like Garner and the folks at Texas Eagle Forum wouldn’t have known about the contributions until it was too late for their squawking to make any difference. (Even so, we haven’t seen them complain about the contributions since then either.)

The $3,700 in contributions Bradley got from those three donors was a significant chunk of the $26,300 he reported raising for his re-election campaign this year. It also appears the late contributions helped cover campaign expenditures Bradley had already made — he reported less than $100 in expenditures after May 20 and had only about $1,400 left in his account at the end of June.

Why did Bradley get those donations? Perhaps it’s because last year he defended Harmony schools from attacks that they were promoting radical Islam, telling the Austin American-Statesman:

“There is a lot of misinformation, a certain level of fear and a small helping of bigotry that needs to go away,” said State Board of Education member David Bradley, R-Beaumont.

“The only thing these guys are guilty of are high scores and being Turkish,” Bradley said.

But before anyone praises Bradley here, it’s worth pointing out that he doesn’t mind promoting anti-Muslim bigotry when it suits his purposes. In his 2008 SBOE re-election campaign, Bradley circulated a campaign flier absurdly claiming that his Democratic opponent wanted to write an Islamic curriculum for Texas public schools. He defended the flier when a Houston Chronicle columnist asked him about it:

“I think Islamic curriculum is about the furthest thing that we need to be introducing into Texas classrooms. I think people are real sensitive about Islamic studies, given recent events in the United States.”

Then in 2010 Bradley helped pass an outrageous SBOE resolution attacking Islam and claiming (falsely) that history textbooks are pro-Muslim and anti-Christian. And that was just a few months after he insisted that social studies curriculum standards include the full name of President Barack Hussein Obama.

Will his religious-right supporters (and “Gulen schools” opponents) turn on Bradley now? Doubtful. Hypocrisy is their strong suit.