McLeroy Loses Seat On Texas Ed. Board, As Curriculum War Rages

One of the most high-profile members of the Texas Board of Education’s Religious Right bloc lost his seat in a primary election March 2.

Don McLeroy, a dentist from College Station, was defeated by Thomas Ratliff, a moderate Republican. McLeroy, a creationist and staunch ally of the Religious Right, has led the board’s anti-separationist faction in several squabbles over “culture war” issues. Most recently, he has been in the forefront of efforts to rewrite the state’s social studies and history standards to reflect “Christian nation” views.

Under McLeroy’s watch, the board appointed David Barton, a notorious “Christian nation” propagandist, to help rewrite the standards. Barton has recommended a number of changes to please fundamentalist Christians. (See “Texas Tall Tale,” July-August 2009 Church & State.)

Despite McLeroy’s defeat, the board’s Religious Right bloc continues to plow ahead. In March, a series of meetings on the social studies standards was held and public comment was accepted. After that, members continued rewriting and editing standards to reflect their religious-political agenda.

On March 11, board members voted to remove a curriculum reference to Thomas Jefferson in a section explaining the role of the Enlightenment on political philosophy. They instead added a reference to John Calvin, a 16th-century French theologian (whom Jefferson considered fanatical).

The board also rejected an amendment offered by member Mavis Knight that would have required students to “examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion over all others.”

Cynthia Dunbar, a graduate of TV preacher Pat Robertson’s, Regent University School of Law, led the opposition to the amendment, saying the Founders did not want separation of church and state. (Dunbar, who now teaches a class at Liberty University School of Law, has attacked public education as a “subtly deceptive tool of perversion.”)

The board is scheduled to finish work on the social studies standards next month and adopt new science and social studies textbooks in 2011 and 2012.