Shameful Lies

Outrageous claims in an effort to win Senate confirmation of Don McLeroy as chairman of the Texas State Board of Education reveal once again how vicious and dishonest the far right can be. As we reported Wednesday, the Senate Nominations Committee has forwarded McLeroy’s nomination to the full Senate for a vote (probably next week). Here’s what we’re seeing in right-wing blogs and e-mails:

  • Free Market Foundation Focus on the Family-Texas says McLeroy has suffered “increasing and outrageous attacks on his personal religious beliefs.”
  • Free Market Focus was echoing an opinion piece headlined “Christians Need Not Apply” by state board member Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, from two weeks ago.
  • State board member Terri Leo, R-Spring, sent out an e-mail three days ago charging that McLeroy has “suffered unfair treatment verging on religious discrimination.”
  • In circulating Leo’s e-mail Wednesday, right-wing gadfly Donna Garner (who played a role in sabotaging the adoption of sound language arts curriculum standards last year) claims that McLeroy “is being vilified and condemned because he is a Christian and holds a Biblical worldview of creation.”

It’s hard to think of a more appropriate word for these baseless accusations other than “vile.” Free Market Focus, Mercer, Leo and Garner are viciously wielding faith as a political weapon to bludgeon their opponents until they get their way. Simply put, they’re shameless.

The truth is that no one in the Senate, at TFN or any other organization of which we are aware has attacked Chairman McLeroy’s personal religious beliefs. He has every right to his beliefs, as we all do. And we condemn attacks on anyone’s faith.

But we object to dumbing down the state’s public school science curriculum simply because McLeroy and his board allies see sound, mainstream, evidence-based science as a threat to their religious beliefs about creation. Mainstream scientists have repeatedly shown McLeroy and other creationists that their arguments against evolution are not supported by scientific evidence. Because of that, those arguments simply have no place in a science classroom.

McLeroy says he doesn’t agree, and he claims he is not trying to promote his religious beliefs in public school science classrooms. But let’s look at the record once again.

It’s McLeroy who told the New York Times that he sees two systems of science, one “naturalist” and the other “creationist.” It’s McLeroy who has said he wants to redefine science to include supernatural explanations. It’s McLeroy who has strongly endorsed a book that says parents who want their children to learn about evolution are “monsters” and that clergy who see no conflict between their faith and science are “morons.” It’s McLeroy who has said he was one of only “four really conservative, orthodox Christians on the board” who opposed science textbooks in 2003 that didn’t challenge evolution.

Of course, McLeroy is not alone in putting religion at the center of this debate. Mercer, for example, has challenged the faith of fellow board members who support teaching about evolution, charging that they have “allowed themselves to be constantly lobbied by prominent atheists and secular humanists.” Garner herself has circulated an e-mail calling into question the faith of board members supporting evolution. That e-mail even blamed learning about evolution for Jeffrey Dahmer’s murders and cannibalism.

But the problems with McLeroy and the state board extend far beyond undermining science education for religious purposes. McLeroy and his board allies have repeatedly undermined and disregarded the work of education professionals and scientists as well as state law.

It was McLeroy who refused to allow the board’s appointed science experts to review and advise on changes he and other board members wanted to make to the science standards to water down instruction on evolution. It was McLeroy who supported throwing out three years of work by teachers and education specialists, voting instead for a language arts curriculum his board allies patched together overnight and presented an hour before the final meeting. And it was McLeroy who voted to reject a mathematics textbook in 2007 for reasons that fell outside what was legally permissible under state law. (Plus, school districts, including in Dallas, had reported success in using that mathematics textbook.)

Yet Free Market Focus and people like Mercer, Leo and Garner want senators and voters to believe that opposition to McLeroy’s confirmation is a result of religious discrimination. That’s incredibly offensive and absurdly hypocritical. But surely after all we’ve seen, no one is surprised by their charges.

If you haven’t done so already, urge your state senator to oppose McLeroy’s confirmation. (You can find contact information for your senator here.) Tell your senator that this isn’t about McLeroy’s religious beliefs. It’s a referendum on whether Texas students should get an education based on sound scholarship or the personal and political agendas of State Board of Education members.

10 thoughts on “Shameful Lies

  1. I’m somewhat embarrassed to ask this question, but I feel it’s become too important for me to avoid it: How, exactly, does one go about contacting their senator over the phone? I get the gist of it (look up their information and call at their office or the senate location phone numbers listed), but after that? Do you ask for the senator, ask to speak to their aides, their office…? I’ve never contacted a senator over the phone before and I’m pretty much clueless.

  2. To rephrase Leo’s claim, “People who don’t like our religious decisions are engaged in religious discrimination. If you don’t let us force our extreme religious ideology on your children, you are discriminating against our religion.”

  3. Headlines should read, “Complaints against actions of SBOE deemed religious discrimination.”

    That should be self-explanatory.

  4. But, But, But. In the hearings, they said it was all about science and had nothing to do with religion. Now they are claiming that it was all about religion? Will someone please send me a sanity pill?

  5. How can we find out when the full Senate will vote on the nomination? It seems like yesterday’s
    committee vote was deliberately rushed as if they were trying to keep it out of public view. We
    only heard about it after the fact.

    1. It’s not unusual for committees to meet in this way late in the session to vote on pending business. It’s unclear exactly when the full Senate will take up McLeroy’s confirmation, but at this point we expect that to happen early next week.

  6. I have called my own senator and have spoken to Florence Shapiro’s aide. He indicated that she is sympathetic to our opposition to confirmation, and that her office has had a large volum of calls opposing it as well. Here’s hoping principles prevail over politics!

  7. Hi to those who are more educated than me. I have enjoyed reading your colorful comments about Don McLeroy. Please make any corrections to this letter meant for my senator:

    As future science teacher, I look foward to engaging my students with critical, scientific thinking that helps them to understand the natural world they live in. In the future, students of mine will have the opportunity to participate in important life-saving and problem-solving scientific research; it is essential their education is up-to-date and relevant to the scientific community and to our natural and physical world.
    Scientific evolution is to understanding relationships in the biological world what gravity is to understanding relationships in the world of physical sciences. Can you imagine a NASA engineer trying to design a satellite without grasping the meaning of gravity? Similarly, an biologist studying pesticide-resistant mosquitoes linked with the spreading of malaria relies on his/her understanding of evolution in devising a plan to control them.
    Don McLeroy has, in a variety of documented ways, voiced his non-belief in the theory of scientific evolution in favor of intelligent design. This would be fine if he were not attempting to implement his own personal beliefs in Texas science education standards. I believe it is a serious threat to the quality of Texas’ students education to allow the presence of a self-serving extremist to direct the future of Texas science education towards rogue, pseudo-scientific philosophies (which are rooted in religion).
    Senator _______, please do not support Don McLeroy’s confirmation as chairman of the SBOE and save the future of Texas education.
    Thank you.

  8. Good letter, Ms. Crimm. Change “Similarly an biologist” to “any biologist”, but otherwise well done!