Mainstream Texans Outraged At Textbook Censorship And Book Banning; Citizens Testify To Counter Religious Right

Mainstream Texans Outraged At Textbook Censorship And Book Banning; Citizens Testify To Counter Religious Right

August 23, 2002

Austin, TX Mainstream Texans came to Austin to testify today, saying publishers and the State Board of Education must hear from more diverse perspectives than they have in the past.

Many witnesses criticized efforts by Religious Right groups that urge textbooks to teach more about Christianity and traditional gender roles, and to cut “unpatriotic” content about slavery and discrimination.

“Most Texans are incensed by efforts to push the personal religious and political beliefs of a select few into schoolbooks used by all Texas children,” said Ashley McIlvain, Political Director of the Texas Freedom Network, a watchdog group that monitors public education issues.

Publishers and the Board heard from a number of people today asking them not to succumb to pressure from Religious Right groups like Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, Texas Citizens for a Sound Economy and Texas Public Policy Foundation.

One volunteer reviewer, Andrew Riggsby, read Out of Many, a textbook criticized by Religious Right groups and subsequently dropped from consideration before the public hearing process began. Riggsby commented on the impact of banning such books in Texas, saying “Not only do we lose the books that are actually turned down, but the ones that are never offered to us at all. When the Board rejects quality books by serious professionals at the whim of fringe groups, it tells publishers to invent inferior products.”

“Publishers ought to be looking at their books and thinking ‘is this true?’,” said Riggsby. “Instead, they have to go sentence by sentence asking ‘can the Eagle Forum take this out of context and use it as a sound bite?’ ”

Witnesses also referred to the AP Environmental Science textbook rejected last fall after being labeled “anti-Christian” and “anti-free enterprise” by Religious Right groups, and to the Social Studies texts criticized this year as not including enough about Christianity and Capitalism.

“I did not find the ‘anti-American,’ ‘anti-Christian,’ ‘anti-Capitalism’ [sentiments] much talked about by those who would impose their own personal beliefs and morality upon the rest of us,” said Richard Collins, who shared his review of a History text with the Board.

“I got involved after reading in the paper how politicized the review process had become,” said David Rogers, who testified before the Board today. “As a son of Texas and the father of a 7th grader, I wanted to get directly involved in the process, so I went and got a book to read.”

“Mainstream Texans are tired of the far-right’s stranglehold over the textbook review process,” said McIlvain.

“The Religious Right successfully convinced the Board to ban a book last year. They convinced publishers to withdraw a book already this year – before the public hearing process. Now they’re demanding text be excised or added to suit their religious and political beliefs,” said McIlvain. “If that’s not censorship, I don’t know what is.”