Texas State Board of Education Chairwoman Gail Lowe’s peculiar ideas about “citizenship” weren’t the only things that bothered us in the Associated Press article we noted yesterday. Ms. Lowe also suggested that she and fellow members of the board’s religious-right faction were somehow being victimized because of their faith:
“Most members of our board are people of faith, only some of us have a faith that is attacked, singled out because of the types of churches we go to,” said Lowe, who grew up in the Methodist Church but is now active in a small nondenominational church in Lampasas. “Religious expression is something that has been deemed very important, but I don’t believe in either the science curriculum or in social studies, we are pushing a particular religious belief system.”
That’s a crock.
First, to our knowledge all members of the board are people of faith. Second, we recall no one attacking Ms. Lowe or her allies on the board “because of the type of churches” they go to. But she and other board members have been rightly criticized for trying to use public schools and their elected positions to promote their personal religious beliefs over those of other everybody else. The other people of faith on the state board haven’t done that.
Moreover, Ms. Lowe’s allies on the board have often attacked the faith of people who disagree with them. For example, board member Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, has called supporters of teaching fact-based science regarding evolution “atheists and secular humanists.” There’s nothing wrong with being either an atheist or secular humanist, of course. But for those of us who are people of faith, it’s insulting to have our religious beliefs called into question because we support an education based on sound science. And we heard no objections from Ms. Lowe when Mr. Mercer made those insulting attacks on people of faith who don’t share his hostility toward science.
Former board chairman Don McLeroy, R-College Station, has also flirted with that kind of insulting language. Dr. McLeroy has said that he believes his fellow board members who don’t share his opposition to evolution are good Christians, but he has also suggested that they aren’t quite living according to true Christian standards. Here’s an excerpt from a 2005 church lecture in which Dr. McLeroy discussed the board’s adoption of biology textbooks two years earlier:
“(O)nly the four really conservative, orthodox Christians on the board were the only ones who were willing to stand up to the textbooks and say that they don’t present the weaknesses of evolution.”
To our knowledge, all other board members during the 2003 debate were Christians. But apparently Dr. McLeroy doesn’t consider them “orthodox” Christians unless they oppose evolution. We haven’t heard Ms. Lowe object to that criticism of other people’s faith.
Of course, one of the most vicious attacks on people of faith who have no problem with the science of evolution came in a right-wing e-mail circulated earlier this year as board members considered new science curriculum standards. The e-mail blamed teaching about evolution for creating serial murderers like Jeffrey Dahmer and called into question the faith of Republicans on the board who didn’t want to dumb down instruction on evolution. To our knowledge, Ms. Lowe didn’t publicly object to that, either.
We have a suggestion: instead of disingenuously playing the victim, Ms. Lowe could ask her allies on and off the board to stop using faith as a political weapon and to respect the religious beliefs of everybody — not just those who agree with them. But we’re not holding our breath.