Americans United for Separation of Church and State today urged the Texas State Board of Education to reject a resolution that criticizes publishers for allegedly promoting “pro-Islamic/anti-Christian bias” in world history textbooks.
The resolution, put forward by an ultra-conservative faction on the board, vows to reject textbooks that “offend Texas law with respect to treatment of the world's major religious groups by significant inequalities of coverage space-wise and/or by demonizing or lionizing one or more of them over others.” It warns that discriminatory treatment of religion may increase “as Middle Easterners buy into the U.S. public school textbook oligopoly.”
Advocates of civil rights and civil liberties said the measure is based on faulty and misleading analysis and is merely the latest attempt by right-wing board members to politicize public education in Texas.
“This clearly is just an attempt to add fuel to the anti-Islam rhetoric currently circulating around the country,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “The right-wing faction on the board needs to recognize that it is their duty to make the best decisions for students, not to push a political agenda.
“Once again, the Texas school system is being turned into a culture-war battleground,” Lynn continued. “When will these board members drop the political stunts and focus on improving education?”
In a letter today, Americans United called on the board to shelve the resolution.
The letter, drafted by AU State Legislative Counsel Dena S. Sher, urged the board to oppose the resolution because it is based on dubious analysis, focuses on out-of-date textbooks and “undermines core democratic values of inclusion and respect for all religions.”
“We urge the Board to oppose this harmful resolution,” wrote Sher. “Although the purported goal of balanced treatment of religion is commendable, the resolution actually achieves the opposite result – it has the effect of disparaging Islam. The Board should focus on giving Texas school children the best education possible and not stir up fear and intolerance.”
The resolution has been placed on the agenda for the board meeting being held today and tomorrow in Austin. Americans United’s Austin Chapter President Brian Spears plans to provide testimony opposing the measure.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.