More Confusion from Don McLeroy

On Thursday Don McLeroy once again had difficulty explaining why the Texas State Board of Education has made so many bone-headed decisions in overhauling social studies curriculum standards for public schools.

McLeroy, a College Station Republican who lost his bid for re-election to the board in the GOP primary earlier this month, spoke to listeners of On Point, a program produced by Boston NPR station WBUR. (Hat tip to TFN Insider reader James F for the heads-up about the show.)

McLeroy had a particularly hard time justifying why in the world the board removed Thomas Jefferson from a world history standard about Enlightenment thinkers. In fact, he suggested adding Jefferson back in to the world history standards. But along the way he inadvertently admitted spending so much time wrecking the rest of the standards document that he really didn’t realize taking Jefferson out in the first place was foolish.

“Actually, when you’re in the process of making lots of amendments, you’re busy, you’re all day long. When you have time to reflect, maybe you’ll change your vote. I think all politicians do that.”

Indeed. But isn’t this yet another example of why it’s unwise for the board’s politicians to be micromanaging the work of teachers and scholars who spent nearly a year developing the social studies standards?

McLeroy also tried to justify his vote, along with the board’s other nine Republicans, to reject a proposed government course standard requiring students to “examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion over all others.” He responded this way to a question about whether he was trying to “pull back” from teaching students about separation of church and state:

“Absolutely not. This idea of the separation of church and state is clearly stated in the First Amendment where it says there will be no state establishment of religion. That is very important. That is what was meant by that. This wall of separation metaphor has actually gotten a little bit too strong where people are saying well if you’re religious you can’t be involved.”

The wall of separation metaphor has gotten too strong? What in the world does that mean? Well, McLeroy argued that the Founders really did intend to promote religion, but not to establish one religion as official. Yet mainstream scholars have pointed our repeatedly that the Founders saw this kind of mixing of government and religion as particularly dangerous to freedom.

Perhaps it’s encouraging that a member of the board’s far-right faction has finally admitted that the Constitution guarantees separation of church and state. Board member David Bradley, R-Beaumont Buna, certainly doesn’t agree, telling reporters at the last board meeting:

“I reject the notion by the left of a constitutional separation of church and state. I have $1,000 for the charity of your choice if you can find it in the Constitution.”

So maybe McLeroy needs to work this out with Bradley and his other far-right colleagues. In any case, the proposed standard simply focused on why the Founders protected religious freedom by barring government from promoting one religious over all others. Perhaps McLeroy was too busy to read that one through as well.

Listen to the whole program here. The program also included comments from Nathan Bernier, who has covered the state board for Austin’s KUT radio; Paul Boyer, a professor emeritus of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Kristen Amundson, communication manager for the education think tank Education Sector.

16 thoughts on “More Confusion from Don McLeroy

  1. TFN, McLeroy’s forced apologia is something I’m glad you’re keeping relevant. I assume that the Texas state legislature would very happily pretend all this never happened, since a large portion of the reps. agree with the far-right SBOE agenda. I seem to remember that the only reason they became involved during the Science curriculum was due to pressure from TFN and other secular and religious orgs.

    Unless I’m missing something, I’d guess that there’s still a lot of work yet to be done. Thankfully, McLeroy and his posse are helping the case against them whenever they speak. I’m sure that the next iteration of religious right ideologues will get their stories straight before they vote.

  2. The door is ajar. The door is a jar. Don McLeroy is aghast. Don McLeroy is a ghast? I need help.

  3. How about Mr. Bradley giving the thousand bucks to the TFN or, if they can’t accept charitable gifts, the Southern Poverty Law Center will put $1,000 to good use. The fight bigotry and discrimination.

    Oh, where is it said that there is a separation between church, synagogue, mosque and other religions? How ’bout the FIRST AMENDMENT.

    Many of the founding fathers were NOT Christians; they were Deists. They had to believe in God; else they could not be Masons, which also is open to all kinds of believers. While it is true that Deists believe in God, they do not believe in a Trinity, a basic requirement for anyone calling themselves Christians. Jefferson said he ”I am of a sect by myself, as far as I know” Thomas Paine was a Deist as, believe or not, were George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and, of course Thomas Jefferson who was a scholar of the man Jesus but not the god Jesus and even wrote his own version of a bible. There were many more, too numerous to quote here, but the falsehood that these United States was ever founded as a Christian country is just as wrong today as it was when the Constitution was written and signed.

  4. Beverly, Bradley might as well have offered $1 trillion dollars, for all his intent to pay out. No matter what you argue, he’ll have a convenient, Barton-approved/provided twist of words to slither out of any debate. Because it isn’t exactly enumerated in the Constitution, he and the far-right will argue against the separation until they’re blue in face.

    Oops, I mean “red”; they’d never go blue…

  5. True dat Beverly!
    It’s amazing to me that the Christian right and many Republicans believe that the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation.

    I’ve been reading (about two-thirds through) a fascinating book called “The Faiths of the Founding Fathers” by David Holmes. In it he describes how deliberate their intention of separating government from religion; however they as individuals were very religious men… Deists most of them. Some of them Unitarians and the author goes on even to use the term “Christian Deist” which I find to be a fascinating term.

    This book along with another I’m re-reading, Age of Reason by Thomas Paine, one of the most influential men in the founding of this country and who some might call a rabid Deist reinforce my own particular brand of conservatism, which leans for the most part with where the Libertarian Party platform sits.

  6. Yes, the words “church and state” are not in the Constitution and distort what it says. The word approved by the First Congress in the First Amendment is “religion.” If some of you think the First Congress and the members of the six member joint Senate-House conference committee which composed the wording of the First Amendment got its wording wrong, then solve that problem by finding those words in the Constitution, if you can, and by reading The Religion Commandments in the Constitution: A Primer. It is a textbook of specific, researched documentation about the three religion commandments in the Constitution and reminds readers that James Madison is the person who personally helped draft all three religion commandments and is the Founding Father who wrote “Strongly guarded … is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution,” W&MQ 3:555. If you have not read his essay Ecclesiastical Endowments, look it up on the internet–“Detached Memoranda.” James Madison is a primary source authority, which means, not a secondary source. Jefferson and Paine are great, but neither were at the Constitutional Convention. Jefferson was not even in the USA in 1787 when the Founding Fathers, with capital Fs (see Websters), drafted the Constitution.

    I have provided in this comment two very interesting, documented, and authoritative sources in response to your comments, so I trust all of you are as serious as I about getting and understanding the relevant facts about the issue of religion and government, in contrast to the nonsense spread by some members of the Texas State Board of Education.

    Gene Garman, M.Div.
    And Sic’em Bears!

  7. Another good reference on this subject is a book by Brooke Allen entitled, “Moral Minority.” One must also remember the “Treaty of Tripoli” which was started under the Washington administration, ratified by the US Senate on June 7, 1797, and signed by President John Adams on June 10, 1797. Article 11 states, “As the government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” That states it pretty clearly in clear unambigous terms. It is also important to remember that this vote was only the third UNANIMOUS vote of the US Senate out of the previous 339 votes taken by the new US Senate.

  8. Don McLeroy confuses two different elements: “This idea of the separation of church and state is clearly stated in the First Amendment where it says there will be no state establishment of religion. That is very important. That is what was meant by that. This wall of separation metaphor has actually gotten a little bit too strong where people are saying well if you’re religious you can’t be involved.”

    Separation and the wall are between two power hungry, turf seeking organizations: state and church. State includes school districts, local, state, national groups. Religion and politics are within our feelings, thinking, talk, actions. Religion is our allegiances and wants; politics our advocating and working for our belief systems. If we put a wall inside us, are we schizy?

  9. One of the problems, in my opinion, with the SBOE is how they reject or revise the inputs from the expert panels on curriculum with a simple majority and no further advice or input from the “experts”. We have seen where this can run good, reasoned educational plans into the ditch. I would propose to those with influence on SBOE processes a restructuring of the voting regime needed to approve TEKS, textbooks, and etc. First, a recommendation from the expert panels can be passed with a simple majority. Second, items can be sent back to the panels with recommendations for revision with a 2/3 vote (after revision revert to first condition). Third, a 3/4 vote would be required to pass any revision not meeting the first two conditions. Food for thought, maybe a starting point toward some sanity.

    The religions of the Founding Fathers are immaterial as they established a constitutionally secular nation.

    @ julian Look up Classical Liberalism. I think you will agree that it compares closely with the Libertarian view.

  10. “This wall of separation metaphor has actually gotten a little bit too strong where people are saying well if you’re religious you can’t be involved.”

    Hmmm? In a country where, if you’re even suspected of being one of us atheists, you have almost no chance of being elected to public office? (I mean of course, in the Real America (TM), not in Oregon or San Francisco or Austin or Sodom.)

  11. Coragyps please count the atheists lucky in today’s America. In the Colonial America revered by the Christian Nation cultists (like you know who), anyone thought to be an atheist or even the wrong kind of Christian was subject to execution in many if not most of the colonies. All their property would also be confiscated leaving their heirs with nothing. I’m glad the Founding Fathers repudiated these religious excesses and founded a secular nation.

  12. Only in relation to colonial America can atheists, non-Christians, and secular Christians feel like they’re better off. In many areas of the US, if a family is known to have filed suit against what they see as the state imposing religious beliefs on their citizenry, the family would be wise to move from that neighborhood, with all due haste, as they are immediately targeted for abusive confrontations, personal property destruction and vandalism, and flat out threats of violence and death. That is the fact of the matter here in our “freedom-loving” country.

  13. I’m with Carol. As a newly-converted Frisbyite, ( our bible doubles as the collection plate ) I demand that Frisbyism’s tenets, that you should never beg for a pinch from another’s last bit of stash, requiring those who would pass judgment on others to put on a clown nose and wear their underpants over their outer clothes before voicing their much-valued opinions, and that our Lord and Savior, Carl Sagan’s First Grade Teacher, Mrs. Thorne* did prize dogs more than cats, ( though Her Holicowness has not deigned it important to stipulate where pot-bellied pigs should be placed in that hierarchy) be taught to all children, stressing how they guided the framers of the Constitution’s display case.


    *-I have no idea who Mr. Sagan’s 1st grade teacher really is, so, vote Republican!