Report Authors Rip Far-Right Critics in Texas

The authors of a think tank’s report that slammed the new and heavily politicized social studies curriculum standards in Texas clearly aren’t going to suffer silently as right-wing critics hurl lies and distortions at their work. Those critics have been absurdly suggesting that, among other things, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute is a left-wing organization that deliberately used its new report to embarrass Texas. But the Fordham Institute is  a conservative organization whose scholars simply think it was wrong for the Texas State Board of Education‘s far-right members to use the new U.S. history standards to promote their own personal and political agendas in public schools.

In a new essay for the History News Network, historians Sheldon and Jeremy Stern address a variety of criticisms of their report about U.S. history standards in states across the country. In a footnote at the end of their piece, the Sterns are especially dismissive of the ridiculously dishonest criticisms from Liberty Institute, the far-right Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family:

Claims that we have “lied” focus particularly on our criticism of Texas’s handling of slavery, which is barely discussed in the standards prior to the Civil War, and is then deftly subordinated in importance to “states’ rights” as the cause of the conflict. Texas’s Liberty Institute responded by doing a search for the word “slavery” in the document and triumphantly declaring that the standards do mention it… though, ironically, the quotes they produced demonstrate the very historical flaws we described (flaws also pointedly noted by Rod Paige, George W. Bush’s first secretary of education, and hardly a liberal shill). Likewise, angrily rejecting our criticism that the history of separation of church and state was dismissed and distorted in the standards, the Liberty Institute jubilantly declared, after another word search, that the phrase does indeed appear in the standards—yet the passage which they produced to refute our claim is again the very passage to which we referred in the first place! Yes, it does mention the concept of separation, but only to insinuate that it is a historical myth (a position Texas’s State Board of Education members took openly in their public hearings on the standards). And so it goes.

Here’s more from the Sterns about the Texas standards:

Our criticism of the historical distortions in the new Texas standards has received a significant amount of media attention in the Lone Star State and has spurred some calls to reopen the revision process. But, as with the defenders of social studies, the response of the supporters of the standards has been equally predictable—scoffing at Washington “elitists” trying to tell Texans how to do things. Some have gone a good deal further, accusing us and Fordham of being part a vast conspiracy to humiliate Texas. And, like all conspiracy theorists, they twist our factual findings beyond recognition, putting ridiculous words into our mouths and denouncing all contrary arguments as malicious “lies.”


But don’t expect the Sterns’ far-right critics to be embarrassed that their lies are being exposed. They’ll simply keep repeating those lies because they are determined to put their own political agendas ahead of the education of Texas schoolchildren.

9 thoughts on “Report Authors Rip Far-Right Critics in Texas

  1. Well, it appears that real conservatives all over America are awakening to the fact that they have inadvertently turned over their leadership to the fruitcakes among them.

    Godwin’s Law. No. The truth. Yes. Every national population on this planet consists of people of all kinds—even here in the United States. Every population has within it a certain percentage of people who are given to extremism of one sort or another. They say a political nightmare cannot happen here. They are wrong. Anytime you have a human population, you have a certain percentage of people who have within themselves the inclination and will to do awful things. All they need is the right spark to set off their can of gasoline. It is true that our own homegrown version of the “Bitch of Buchenwald” lives somewhere among us. She may be your next door neighbor. She may be the person who carpools your children to school. She could be your best friend. She is out there for certain. She has not emerged only because that unique environment that would draw her out into the open has not been fully established.

    I remain personally convinced that organizations such as the Texas SBOE and the Liberty Institute attract the hearts of such people like moths are attracted to a light bulb. The GOP nationwide is finally waking up to the awful things they have allowed to happen—the nuts they have allowed to gain control—and they are poised to do something about it.

    I commend conservatives such as Judge John Jones and the Fordham Institute for standing up to these extremists and saying—in effect: “You are not conservatives. We are conservatives. You are extremists. We want no part of you.”

    It is my sincere hope that these rumblings will soon grow to an ear-piercing crescendo that will send the whole lot of them back to the shelter of those moist rocks they crawled out from under sometime back. True conservatives do not bother me so much. It’s the fruitcakes among us who claim to be conservatives that worry me.

    I have two children asleep here in the house tonight, and I do not want them to live in some nightmare world built by a bunch of fruitcakes. I hope you true conservatives out there will continue to wake up and ride to the rescue of my children before it is too late.

  2. Once again the constitutional issue of separation has obviously been distorted. When are separationists going to comprehend it is the wording in the Constitution which controls accurate and unquestionable understanding of what the Constitution says and means? For how many years are TFN and many other “separationist” organizations going to keep distorting the wording of the United States Constitution and arguing with idiots about the separation issue before separationists understand and admit that words mean things and the Founding Fathers and First Congress got the wording correct and unquestionable from the beginning?

    Is Glenn Beck really more intelligent than the combined staff of TFN, the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, and Americans United for Separation? Will TFN, the BJC, and AU, on whose staff I used to serve, ever have the fog removed from their separationist argument? Will Professor George Lakoff’s book Don’t Think of an Elephant ever make its point? Will debate coaches throughout the United States ever get the recognition they deserve when they instruct debate students to use wording which properly phrases the debate point?

    On page 287 of “Arguing with Idiots,” Glenn Beck, who sells more books than AU, the BJCPA, and TFN combined and so easily counters the inaccurate and distorted constitutional argument of “separationists,” simply says, of the words “church and state,” “they’re not there.” His debate point is flawless. Beck wins the hearts and minds of his illiterate following. The “religious right” wins in the minds of millions because Beck is absolutely correct in the undereducated minds of so-called “right wingers” in American society, even though they and Beck are completely wrong about what the Constitution actually says.

    The actual words of the Constitution are “religious,” Art. 6., Section 3, and “religion,” First Amendment, and cannot be denied. One of the most important classes I took at Baylor University was a speech class, but even its Institute of Church and State is misnamed. The words “church and state” are not in the Constitution, are a distortion of what the Constitution says, and should be eliminated from the national constitutional debate about separation.

    Nonetheless, when I published my book, The Religion Commandments in the Constitution: A Primer,, in order to make the constitutional point, not one of the above named organizations ever took time to acknowledge the significance of a properly framed argument. So, Glenn Beck and the uneducated “right wing” distortion continues. Yet, when I presented my book and its correctly and constitutionally worded debate point at a meeting of “freethinkers” in Joplin, Missouri, last week, they enthusiastically understood the unquestionable constitutional principle of “separation between Religion and Government,” James Madison, WMAQ, 3:555.

    As long as scholars from the Fordham Institute and TFN continue to inaccurately state what the Constitution actually says, Glenn Beck remains unembarassed, wins the public debate, and sells more books. Hello?

  3. Glenn Beck, Gene? Really . . . GLENN BECK? Bwah-ha-ha-ha! To answer your question, no, the Beckster is really not more intelligent that combined staff of TFN, the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, and Americans United for Separation. That you could entertain such a bizarre notion speaks to your delusions. By the way, how is Sancho doing? Bet he’s getting tired of you and your windmills.

    Charles, here is an article that completely supports your argument about the evil we could fall heir to. It was written in 1944,

    “The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice. It may be shocking to some people in this country to realize that, without meaning to do so, they hold views in common with Hitler when they preach discrimination against other religious, racial or economic groups.”

    “”The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.”

  4. Will Gene Garman ever stop kvetching about the same thing, over and over again? Will he cease shamelessly plugging his book on this blog? Will he continue to mention his college in every post, as if it somehow lends him more credibility, like John Kwok does?

  5. As long as TFN and other separationist organizations continue to misstate the words of the Constitution, the debate, with those who distort the constitutional principle of “separation between Religion and Government” and with “idiots” like the Glenn Becks in our society, who sells more books than TFN, AU, FFRF, ACLU, BJCPA, etc., put together, will continue to prevail in the public square.

    When I see TFN stop promoting words and concepts which are not in the Constitution and start using the words of the Constitution to teach the Texas State Board of Education what the Constitution actually says, the debate will be over and won. Words mean things, the public debate continues, and TFN, as well as others, continue to fail because they continue to improperly frame the argument.

    Every time TFN, AU, and other separationist organizations use the erroneous wording “church and state,” the right wing simply says those words are not in the Constitution. Our opponents are correct about that, and they continue to win the general public debate.

    There can be no losing of the debate when the debate is properly and constitutionally worded. Why would anyone think I am ashamed to promote my book, my refutation of the inadequate approach which misstates what the Constitution actually says, or my criticism of organizations which continue to be responsible for losing the public and constitutional debate?

    When I see TFN stop using misleading and inaccurate terminology and clearly assert the constitutional principle of separation in constitutional terms, which the Texas State Board of Education and the Glenn Becks of the world cannot deny, then, the debate will be over.

    I quote TFN from its website at

    “Among the worst changes board member made was the adoption of a new curriculum standard for high school American government that suggests separation of church and state is not a key principle of the Constitution. In fact, far-right board members explicitly rejected a proposed standard requiring students to examine how the Founders protected religious freedom by barring government from promoting of favoring any particular religion over all others. Some board members even insisted that separation of church and state is a “myth.”
    Join TFN’s Just Educate campaign to reform the State Board of Education.”

    If TFN wants to reform the TSBOE, it first needs to reform the terms of its debate argument. TFN and the TSBOE does need to read my book if it will help them stop using terms which are not in the Constitution, and thereby get its argument properly framed:

    “separation of church and state” is not a key principle of the Constitution. The Constitution does not use the words “particular religion over all others” or “separation of church and state.” The myth being spread is that those words are in the Constitution. They are not. It is the whole subject of “religion” which is not to be established by law or Congress. “Religion” itself is not to be established by law or Congress, and there is no other understanding which can be given to the word “thereof” in the subsequent clause in the First Amendment.

    I am indeed proud to have learned that debate approach at Baylor and to have learned how to properly frame a debate point: the 1954 public law which established “under God” in the pledge is unconstitutional. Government establishment of the “Office of Faith-based” anything is unconstitutional: “Strongly guarded … is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution,” James Madison.

  6. You know what, Gene? That makes good sense. “It is the whole subject of ‘religion’ which is not to be established by law or Congress.”

    I must, however, assert that Thomas Jefferson surely knew what the First Amendment meant to those who wrote it. And since it was he who described the “wall of separation,” I think we are justified in using the phrase.

  7. Gene, technically you are correct and the courts interpret the phrase “separation of church and state” from the actual meaning of the words in the two religion clauses in the First Amendment. The phrase is a metaphor originally used in Jefferson’s famous letter containing the phrase and used subsequently by other Founders and the courts, including the Supreme Court, as a shorthand phrase to succinctly explain the meaning of the religion clauses in words of as few syllables as possible. For that purpose it is a perfectly-good phrase that is widely used.

    Of course the issues are far more complex than what the phrase explicitly suggests. For example, as you and everyone else well know, there is some accommodation that allows the state to support church schools, so the phrase is, strictly-speaking, untrue. From a separationist viewpoint, some of the accommodation is okay and some crosses the line. Nevertheless, it is perfectly okay to use the phrase in informal discussions, explanations, and journalism about religion-government separation and entanglement. TFN does nothing wrong by using the phrase.

    Please do not use the mendacious Glenn Beck as an example of someone who understands the issue better than us poor, ignorant liberals. When Beck says the words “church and state” are not found in the Constitution to make his specious arguments, he is denying the reality of ANY legal religion-government separation, which of course is nonsense, so he sounds like an idiot to any rational, informed person. I know you know this, so please stop sounding like a prig.

  8. Words mean things. The Constitution is the Supreme law of the land and it is written in plain English with words which mean exactly what they say. To suggest anyone can change the words of the Constitution is absurd. I majored in religion and history, therefore, it is apparently necessary to again point out Thomas Jefferson was not a Founding Father, see Webster’s Dictionary, and had absolutely nothing to do with writing the 1787 Constitution or the 1789 First Amendment. He was in France from 1784 to 1789 and did not report for duty in the Washington administration until March 1790. I wrote the book The Religion Commandments in the Constitution: A Primer in order to frame an argument which debunks the position of Glenn Beck and the right wing by using the Constitution’s wording, as well as to frame the constitutional principle of separation in its terms, in contrast to words which distort what the Constitution specifically says and commands.

    Whoever wrote the previous comment obviously missed the point: TFN uses the words “church and state” in its own literature, to which I object, and I cite the source:

    Glenn Beck obviously uses the same erroneous wording used by TFN, which it has used for years, to ridicule TFN and others for using words which are not in the Constitution.

    In the time I spent in law school at Washburn University School of Law, one of the first lessons which was taught is that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and it is its words which are supreme. For anyone to suggest that its words can be changed and taken to court is ridiculous. The word in the Constitution is “religion,” and it is absurd to suggest otherwise. The Constitution does not use the word “church,” and it is way past time for TFN and Americans United, for whom I used to be on the staff, to conform to the Constitution’s wording. It is the whole subject of “religion” which shall not be established by law or Congress or government at any level. The Founding Fathers and the First Congress got the wording correct from the beginning, which cannot be denied by the leaders of the religion right or TFN. As I was taught in seminary, “thou shalt not lie” about anything, including about what the Constitution actually says. The Constitution does not need its words revised. It is TFN’s job to properly frame the public debate. TFN does not do so when it revises and uses words which change the meaning of what the Constitution says. The Constitution means exactly what it says, not something else. It is the whole subject of religion which shall not be established, not just a church. Too bad President Obama does not understand. The Office of Faith-based anything is unconstitutional, as are the words “under God” in the pledge.

    When the words of the Constitution are used, Beck and other idiots have no argument. TFN needs to constitutionally frame its debate terminology, as I was taught at Baylor, if it wants to win the debate without question.

  9. Gene, could you now go on to explain how “judicial review,” “separation of powers,” and “checks and balances” are also concepts not found in the constitution?

    Geez, Baylor must be an even crappier college than the University of Oregon.