What Does He Really Think?

by Dan Quinn

It seems that Brian Russell, anointed by Cynthia Dunbar as her desired replacement on the Texas State Board of Education, doesn’t much like the Texas Freedom Network. And we’re such nice folks. Go figure. Anyway, just a few days before word got out that Russell is seeking Dunbar’s board seat, the Austin attorney and his fellow State Republican Executive Committee (SREC) members passed a resolution attacking TFN as a “far left-wing fringe group.”

Well, we’re fascinated that SREC members spend their time worrying about TFN. But more than anything, the resolution itself also offers a roadmap of sorts for the political agenda Russell wants to promote on the State Board of Education.

Click on the thumbnail here to see the full resolution.

A few excerpts:

“WHEREAS, The Texas Freedom Network claims to support religious tolerance but actively works to reduce the influence of Christians on public policy…”

The claim that we want to reduce the influence of Christians on public policy would surely surprise the more than 600 clergy men and women who are part of our Texas Faith Network. Some even sit on TFN’s board. And other TFN board members and staff members attend a variety of churches and synagogues. No, what we seek to reduce is the ability of religious extremists — like Dunbar and Russell — to use the levers of government to force their beliefs on everyone else.

“WHEREAS, the Texas Freedom Network attacks abstinence-only education at the state and federal level and has sought to repeal the requirement in Texas law that health education classes devote more attention to abstinence than any other sexual behavior…”

It’s no secret that TFN opposes disastrous abstinence-only policies. Texas has one of the highest teen birth rates in the nation — and ranks first in multiple births to teens — yet has received more federal abstinence-only funding than any other state. Clearly, keeping teens ignorant isn’t working. Moreover, Russell and the SREC are simply out of step with most Texans on the issue of sex education. Polls show that the vast majority of Texans support teaching students medically accurate information about responsible pregnancy and disease prevention in addition to the importance of abstinence.

“WHEREAS, the Texas Freedom Network has attacked Republican members of the State Board of Education for their efforts to ensure that Texas students have the freedom to ask questions in science class and that American history books place more emphasis on patriotism, our Founding Fathers and the free market system…”

Of course, TFN has opposed none of that. But we do oppose efforts by far-right state board members to promote junk science and political agendas in public school classrooms and turn our children’s schools into battlegrounds in the culture wars. And Russell, like Dunbar, is a dedicated culture warrior.

“The Republican Party of Texas advises Republican primary voters and Republican auxiliaries that Texas Freedom Network opposes the principles and beliefs expressed in the 2008 Republican Party of Texas Platform.”

Well, let’s see what the Texas GOP platform advocates:

– Separation of church and state is a “myth.”

– Courts should be stripped of their authority to uphold the First Amendment’s prohibition against government favoring or disfavoring any particular religion. (In fact, the platform even calls for the impeachment of judges whose decisions the party opposes.)

– Religious doctrine — in the form of creationist arguments against evolution — should be taught in science classrooms.

– The public treasury should be raided to pay for private and religious schools, and the law should give special privileges to students at those schools.

– Government should make it harder, not easier, to register and cast a vote.

– Private, intimate relationships between consenting adults of the same sex should be criminalized, and it should remain legal to discriminate against gay and lesbian Texans.

– It should be harder for married couples to divorce, even if one of the spouses is a victim of domestic abuse.

Well, yeah, TFN does oppose that and a lot of other far-right nonsense in the state GOP platform. And guess what? So do a lot of Texas Republicans who are appalled that their party is dominated by extremists who use faith as a political weapon to divide people into two camps — those who are good Christians and those who supposedly aren’t.

But we are thankful that Russell is making it ever clearer what political agenda he would bring to the State Board of Education and our children’s public school classrooms should he be elected next year. The era of stealth candidates who are able to hide their radical agendas from voters before their election are in the past.

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