During the Texas State Board of Education‘s debate over science curriculum standards in 2008, supporters of sound science education succeeded in killing a provision that would have required students to learn creationism-inspired arguments about the “weaknesses” of evolution. But nine Republicans in state board races apparently will insist that new biology textbooks include those bogus “weaknesses” if they win election on November 6. Moreover, 11 GOP candidates for the state board support displaying the Ten Commandments in public schools.

The candidates made their positions clear in a voter guide questionnaire sponsored by several religious-right groups. The evolution question is particularly important because the state board is scheduled to adopt new biology textbooks in 2013. Those textbooks could be in Texas public schools for nearly a decade.

The following nine Republican candidates said they “strongly agree” with this statement: “Biology textbooks which do not teach both the scientific strengths and weaknesses of the theory of evolution should be rejected by the Board.”

District 1 Charlie Garza, El Paso (incumbent) District 3 David Williams, San Antonio District 5 Ken Mercer, San Antonio (incumbent) District 6 Donna Bahorich, Houston District 7 David Bradley, Beaumont Buna… Read More

This column is cross-posted from Texas School Administrators Legal Digest Online. It is written by Texas attorney Jim Walsh, the managing editor of the Digest and co-author of The Educator’s Guide to Texas School Law.

Your school superintendent did the right thing. When he ordered the Kountze ISD cheerleaders to cease putting scripture verses reflecting a Christian point of view on the banners used at football games, the superintendent was doing exactly what he was supposed to do as a public official—he was keeping his school district aligned with the U.S. Constitution.

When the football team charges through the banner to take the field on Friday night, they embody the entire school district and community. The band is playing, the fans are cheering and the pageantry of Texas high school football is on full display. This is not the time or place for a single student to express a personal opinion on religious or political issues—even if that personal opinion also reflects the views of most of the members of the community.

Students absolutely have the right of free speech and free exercise of religion at all times, including when they are attending public school. It has been… Read More

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has asked the Internal Revenue Service to determine whether a Texas church has violated federal tax law by posting a public sign urging people to “vote for the Mormon, not the Muslim.”

According to AU, the pastor of the Church in the Valley in Leakey, Texas, posted the message on the church’s marquee outside. Leakey is west of San Antonio. The full message read, “VOTE FOR THE MORMON, NOT THE MUSLIM! THE CAPITALIST, NOT THE COMMUNIST!”

From AU’s press release:

“This sign is a blatant attempt to intervene in a political campaign,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. “I urge the IRS to crack down on this over-the-top law-breaking.”

ABC News reported that the sign “was an obvious reference to President Barack Obama, who conservatives say is a secret Muslim even though he says he is a Christian and attends church with his family.” The “Mormon” reference is to Gov. Mitt Romney, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

In a letter delivered to the IRS today, Lynn requested an investigation of the matter.

“Miller [the pastor]… Read More

Florida voters don’t seem to be buying into a proposed constitutional amendments that would fling open the door to public funding for religious institutions. The defeat of that amendment, which is on the November ballot, could discourage efforts to pass similar measures in other states, including Texas.

A Suffolk University/7NEWS(WSVN-Miami) poll found that just 28 percent of registered voters in Florida support Amendment 8. The measure, deceptively titled the “Religious Freedom” amendment, would allow public dollars to fund religious schools, houses of worship, other sectarian institutions, and any religious sect or denomination. The poll showed that 52 percent of registered voters oppose the amendment, while the remainder were undecided or refused to answer. The amendment must receive 60 percent of the votes on November 6 to be added to the state’s Constitution.

Our friends at Americans United for Separation of Church and State have more on the amendment here.

TFN will be on the look out for any similar legislation when Texas lawmakers begin filing bills later this fall for the 2013 legislative session.… Read More

The following guest post is by Tom Spencer, CEO of Interfaith Action of Central Texas (iACT).

“Satan runs across the world with his doubts and with his untruths and what have you, and one of the untruths out there that is driven is that people of faith should not be involved in the public arena.” — Texas Gov. Rick Perry, September 2012

The question of the proper role of faith in the public arena is obviously one that still ignites passions in 21st century Texas. Sadly, this critical question is rarely the topic of respectful dialogue. Instead, it is used a “wedge” issue intended to stoke resentments and spread fear.

This Thursday, September 27, Interfaith Action of Central Texas (iACT) will begin the fourth season of our interfaith dialogue program, The Red Bench, with a conversation about “Religion and the State: Drawing the Line.” In this dialogue we will explore the often controversial intersections of private beliefs and the public square in exactly the way it should be explored: through thoughtful small-group conversations involving people of all faiths and none.

Started in 2009, The Red Bench provides the opportunity for individuals to practice “the… Read More