May 21, 2010

Educated

Today, the Texas State Board of Education officially passed new social studies education standards, which include many politically-motivated changes that have sparked controversy over the past few months of debate (for background, read this article). Some improvements were made over the past few days as the Board members corrected some of the controversial changes. However, other new ones were added, like one asking students to "compare and contrast ... the phrase 'separation of church and state'" with the religious liberty efforts of "the Founding Fathers." The wording is meant to suggest that the concepts are different even though it was Thomas Jefferson, one of those "Founding Fathers," who wrote the phrase "separation of church and state." Recently, several pastors in Texas held a rally at the Texas Capitol to protest the changes. Larry Bethune, pastor of University Baptist Church in Austin, argued:
We don't want to be the laughing stock of the nation and certainly don't want our children to be taught a very narrow religious agenda. We think it's very important that Texas children understand religious liberty and its place as the First Amendment of our Constitution and Bill of Rights.
And Roger Paynter, pastor of Austin's First Baptist Church, stated:
Our Founding Fathers understood that the best way to protect religious liberty in America is to keep government out of matters of faith. ... But this state board appears hostile to teaching students about the importance of keeping religion and state separate, a principle long supported in my own Baptist tradition and in other faiths.
Others from several denominations also spoke out. Although the voters recently defeated some of the Board members leading the changes, it was not in time to impact the process. Unfortunately, new textbooks that will be used in several states will be written according to these standards.

2 comments:

  1. It is completely delusional to think that religious freedom is possible without separation of church and state, even (especially) if the state favors one's desired religion. Let's not forget, as the Texas Board of Education apparently has, that the first amendment establishment clause was about abolishing the tyranny which was the state sponsorship (and control) of the Church of England.

    From what I've read on the subject, there is also an effort to promote the idea of "American exceptionalism" as a nation "chosen by God as a beacon to the world, and free enterprise as the cornerstone of liberty and democracy" (though they replaced references to America's form of government as a "democracy" with "constitutional republic" in the curriculum as well). I'd love to read your thoughts on the promotion of "American exceptionalism" by people who identify themselves as Christians.

    I'm a bit confused by the message of those who say they oppose government meddling with "free enterprise" while simultaneously calling for more government involvement with religion. Why don't they seem worried that the government would do the same sort of things to religious freedom that they are concerned about with regard to free enterprise? Do they think Muslims enjoy freedom to practice their religion as they see fit in an Islamic state? Not to mention that there have been plenty of examples of government interference with free enterprise out of concern for religious sensibilities right here in the USA (I grew up in Missouri and vividly remember the "blue laws").

    You can't "religionize" government without "politicizing" religion, and that's all one can ever hope to accomplish by opposing separation of church and state. Activists in Texas have spent years stacking the State Board of Education with their candidates in order to gain political power for their religious (and political) agenda. If we truly have faith in the omnipotence of God, what possible purpose can there be in seeking to add political power to religion?

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  2. Pretty lame that some Christians--perhaps these Austin pastors--care little about, or actually support, the government endorsing atheism when teaching godless evolution as fact, but will protest at the capital steps the thought that the government might allow too much God-, or god-, talk into schools.

    Makes me wonder if these same folks also root for the other team at their kids' ball games.

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