Texas School Board Let Anti-Muslim Group Pressure Publishers To Rewrite Religion Textbooks

Last month, the Texas State Board of Education approved a set of social studies textbooks after some disputes between Christian Right members of the board and scholars who had reviewed the texts. Although experts recruited by the Texas Freedom Network to review the proposed texts managed to convince textbook companies to remove some objectionable material, some claims demanded by conservative members of the board remained, including assertions that Moses was a direct influence on the founding of the U.S.

In an article for Religion Dispatches today, one of TFN’s reviewers, David R. Brockman, who teaches religious studies at Southern Methodist University, writes about his experience as a textbook reviewer and his frustrations with the board’s process for reviewing curricula on world religions. “The curriculum standards and the adoption process in Texas don’t simply lack balanced and accurate coverage of the world’s religions; they work against it,” he writes. “And while textbook publishers generally struggle against this tide, they are sometimes dragged along with it.”

In one example, Brockman writes that the Christian Right bloc on the school board “insisted that the publishers address” a last-minute set of comments submitted by Truth in Texas Textbooks, a group associated with the anti-Muslim organization ACT! for America, whose reviewers, with one exception, had no “relevant social studies credentials” and demanded that the textbooks include hostile and sometimes false comments about Islam. Although the textbook companies mostly refused TTT’s requests (many with clear exasperation), a few were successful, including a redefinition of the word “jihad”:

The problem is that, in 2014 at least, the conservative majority on the SBOE quite clearly gave comments from ideologically-driven pressure groups (such as Texas Eagle Forum and Texas Values Action) greater weight than comments from credentialed field specialists (such as myself and my fellow reviewers).

A mere two weeks before the SBOE was to take its final vote on the textbooks, and long after other public groups had filed their comments, Truth in Texas Textbooks (TTT), which has allies on the SBOE, presented their reviews—469 pages of material. Two days before the final adoption vote was to take place, Christian Right members of the SBOE made much of the TTT criticisms and insisted that publishers address them.

To judge from its website, the only TTT reviewer with relevant social studies credentials was a professor of Holocaust Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas. However, he reviewed only one world history textbook, and quite appropriately restricted his comments to his areas of expertise.

The other reviewers on TTT’s list appear to have no academic credentials in history, geography, economics, or religious studies (though they do include a Ph.D. in “educational leadership,” and a professor of foreign languages). Despite a lack of pertinent credentials, the TTT reviewers weighed in on a wide range of topics, including prehistory, climate change, economics, political science, and U.S. government.

But they directed special vitriol at the alleged “dangers” posed by Islam. One reviewer wrote of Islam’s “threat to the Western world,” while another lumped Muslims together with communists and socialists commenting, bizarrely, that “The greatest fear for a communist, a socialist or a Muslim is Truth.”

Other TTT comments were just plain false: “Islam is spread by the sword while monotheistic religions are not.”

(Try telling that to an Aztec or Inca—not to mention the fact that Islam is a “monotheistic religion.”)

Yet despite TTT’s lack of credentials and the obviously biased and tendentious nature of their critiques, conservative SBOE members insisted that publishers give them the same level of attention they gave comments from credentialed scholars.

Sadly, in some cases, publishers actually changed their text to suit TTT, as when Pearson Learning ( see page 16) removed from its world history text the factually correct statement that jihad “is most frequently used [by Muslims] to describe an inner struggle in God’s service.” In its place Pearson inserted more ambiguous wording: “For some Muslims, [jihad] means a struggle against one’s evil inclinations. For other Muslims, it refers to a struggle or violent holy war to defend or spread Islam.”

While this change may please TTT and other anti-Islam groups, it deprives students of the important fact that the “holy war” interpretation of jihad is held by only a small minority in the Muslim community today.

Michele Bachmann Says She 'Defeated' Progressives By Outsmarting Them

Rep. Michele Bachmann told the far-right outlet WorldNetDaily in an interview published today that while she is leaving Congress, she is most proud of her work opposing Obamacare, the Dodd-Frank financial industry reform, the 2009 stimulus, auto industry bailouts and TARP. Although all of those measures passed, Bachmann offered her wisdom to conservatives on how she is able to defeat liberal policies time and time again.

Bachmann said she uses “evidence-based arguments” against liberals who are only able to “argue from emotionalism, they don’t argue from a logical, linear point of view, and I take them on at their false premises.”

“That’s the best way to defeat them, by the way. Defeat them with evidence and defeat them with their false premises and I did that,” she said, adding that she was able do this despite the “constant criticism” she received.

The Associated Press, whose chief fact checker said his job required a “self-imposed Michele Bachmann quota” because she made so many false claims, and Politifact, which found that Bachmann had by far worst record of any 2012 presidential candidate when it comes to making accurate statements, must have missed Bachmann’s many “evidence-based” arguments.

Bobby Jindal's Clueless Defense Of His AFA Prayer Rally

The controversy surrounding Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s prayer rally, which is scheduled to take place next month on LSU’s campus, continues to grow as some students have announced that they will protest the involvement of the rally’s chief funder, the American Family Association, an anti-gay hate group. A wide variety of anti-gay activists are promoting the prayer rally and have used promotional materials for the event to spread outrageous claims that natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina were the result of homosexuality and abortion.

Jindal has now been forced to personally address the issue, which he has predictably done by side-stepping criticism of the AFA's bigotry and instead accusing "the left" of attacking Christians:

"Let's be clear about what this is. This is an opportunity for people across denominational lines to come together to pray," Jindal said. "It's not a political event, it's a religious event."

He said that while he respects the rights of protesters, religious groups have the right to express their beliefs and should not be barred from being able to hold the event on the LSU campus. A protest is planned while the event is taking place at the campus's Pete Maravich Assembly Center, and critics are urging LSU not to allow the prayer rally to happen.

"Christians have the right to rent, to pay for a hall at a public university so they can come together and pray," Jindal told reporters at an economic development announcement in New Orleans.

Asked if he agreed with the American Family Association's agenda, Jindal sidestepped that question and said, "The left likes to try to divide and attack Christians."

Jindal said the protesters themselves should consider joining the prayer rally. He said they "might benefit from prayer."

Given that Jindal apparently has no qualms about partnering with the AFA for a "religious event," we feel that someone ought to ask him what he thinks of the fact that one the AFA's main spokesman, Bryan Fischer, has argued time and time again that the protections guaranteed by the First Amendment only apply to Christians.

Since Fischer has made no secret of his belief that non-Christian faiths are not entitled to any protection under the First Amendment whatsoever, one has to wonder how Jindal feels about partnering with his organization, considering that Jindal's own parents "are actively Hindu."

Not only does Fischer believe that Jindal's parents are not entitled to have their faith protected and treated equally under the Constitution, he declared just last year that Hinduism is a demonic religion when he totally freaked out because First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a Hindu event in the White House:

"This is a counterfeit religion," Fischer said. "It is an Eastern religion. It is, in essence, an occult religion.  It's a counterfeit, a false alternative to Christianity.  It ultimately represents the doctrine of demons, that is what you have with Hinduism and now this is being celebrated in the White House."

"Christians have the right to rent, to pay for a hall at a public university so they can come together and pray," Jindal says as he partners with an organization that regularly asserts that other religions do not have those very same rights.

It is truly amazing that Jindal dares to suggest that somehow Christians are being treated unfairly because people are criticizing the fact that he is quite willing to partner with an organization that openly declares that non-Christians are not entitled to equal treatment or protection under the First Amendment.

Stewart Rhodes: Bundy Ranch Standoff Nearly Turned Military Against Feds, Started Civil War

Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes told a gathering of “constitutional sheriffs” last month — which also featured Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas — that federal officials eventually backed down in the standoff at the Bundy Ranch earlier this because they knew that if they didn't the U.S. military would turn against the federal government, igniting a second civil war.

Noting that a number of military veterans joined the armed anti-government protest at the Nevada ranch, Rhodes said that “the politicians and the would-be dictators in Washington, D.C…have to worry if they go too hard, if they drop the hammer too blatantly on Americans like at Bundy Ranch, that the Marine Corps would flip on them. And I think it would. And same goes for the tip of the spear in the Army, Army Airborne, special forces, your Navy Seals, all of those groups out there, the more hardcore they are as warriors, the more likely they are to look at something like that and say, ‘that’s it, I’m done’ and join the resistance.”

“And so that’s why [federal officials] are careful about what they do,” he added. “It’s not out of charity or concern for your lives that the don’t drop the hammer.”

Citing a Washington Times report that the Obama administration “considered but rejected deploying military force” against the armed groups trying to stop the Bureau of Land Management from collecting decades of grazing fees from Cliven Bundy, Rhodes said, “Thankfully they did not, because if they had, that would have kicked off a civil war in this country. It would have.”

The only way to avoid a civil war, he said, was for sheriffs and other officials like those in the audience to refuse to be "the muscle for idiots like Cuomo or Obama or Holder who don't understand warfare."

"Do not open the door on U.S. soil for sheepdog and sheepdog violence," he warned.

The Perfect Right Wing Christmas Card

Nothing says "Merry Christmas" quite like a card portraying an armed Santa Claus holding off a knife-wielding Islamic terrorist who is trying to kill baby Jesus:

An armed Santa Claus on an original Christmas card sent to recipients this year by John M. Snyder protects Baby Jesus from a masked, knife-wielding terrorist.

Santa aims a semiautomatic handgun at the terrorist near Baby Jesus in His crib. The contemporary drawing shows Santa Claus using the gun to save the Infant from the throat-cutter.

"The Christmas card reflects current reality," Snyder said. "According to numerous news reports, Islamist terrorists behead innocent victims around the world, even here in the United States. These murderers persecute Christians, especially Catholics, who worship Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.

"At Christmas, we commemorate the coming of Jesus Christ as true God and true Man, the Divine Person who assumed our human nature through his mother Mary."

Snyder added that, "Santa Claus for many represents the Christmas spirit, the spirit of giving. On this message, Santa uses force of arms to rescue Baby Jesus from a terrorist, to give the Infant protection and freedom from the terrorist. Governments and other entities worthy of respect appreciate the right and ability of individuals to use firearms to protect the innocent."

Right Wing Round-Up - 12/17/14

  • PFAW: Edit Memo: 2014 – A Year of Striking Success on Judicial Nominations.
  • Scott Kaufman @ Raw Story: GOP lawmaker: Women need man’s permission for abortion unless they can prove ‘legitimate rape.’
  • Rachel Ford @ Friendly Atheist: Torture is Okay, Because God Sanctioned Brutality in the Bible, Says Bryan Fischer.
  • Daniel Strauss @ TPM: Lawsuit: GOP Rep. Who Registered Blow-Me.org Had 'Wet Dreams' About Staffer.

  • Timothy Johnson @ Media Matters: NRA News Guest: Newtown Families Were "Extremely Irresponsible" To Sue NRA Corporate Donor That Made The Gun Used To Kill Their Family Members.

  • Charlie Joughin @ HRC Blog: Hypocrisy in Tallahassee: Twice-Divorced Pam Bondi Fights to Keep Same-Sex Couples from Marrying.

Right Wing Bonus Tracks - 12/17/14

  • NOM is trying to raise money off the fact that David Koch, who donates tens of millions of dollars to support conservative candidates, personally supports gay marriage.
  • Erica Wanis, a graduate of Patrick Henry College, says that "if indeed American college campuses are experiencing an epidemic of rape, then women must be willing to consider how their attitudes and behavior might be contributing to the problem."
  • There seems to be a backlash brewing on the LSU campus over the fact that it will be the site of Gov. Bobby Jindal's upcoming prayer rally with a bunch of anti-gay activists.
  • Bob Vander Plaats says Jeb Bush’s immigration reform support will be a "significant hurdle" for him to overcome "in a day where Ebola and ISIS have become household terms."
  • Obviously, the deadly hostage situation in Australia is a lot like "another hostage situation much closer to home": "America’s fundamental laws – the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights – have been taken hostage by elected officials who desire to govern by their own self-proclaimed private ideologies, or by the agenda of special interest groups they are trying to please."
  • Finally, Glenn Beck loves his wife and his daughters, so clearly conservatives don't hate women.

Bill Kristol: CIA Torture Will Have 'No Lasting Effects' Since It Wasn't 'Real Torture'

Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol is urging likely GOP presidential candidates to defend the CIA in the wake of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report, telling Newsmax TV host Steve Malzberg today that Republicans should emulate Dick Cheney’s recent media tour in defense of the agency’s treatment of detainees.

According to Kristol, CIA detainees didn’t experience “real torture” and merely endured “unpleasant” interrogation that “you recover from and seems to have no lasting effects at all.”

Jesse Lee Peterson: Obama Launching A 'Race War,' Keeping Black Americans In 'Bondage'

On the Monday edition of VCY America’s “Crosstalk” radio program, right-wing activist Jesse Lee Peterson spoke with host Jim Schneider about the “racial agitators” who are supposedly keeping black Americans in “bondage” by protesting the shooting of “thug” Michael Brown, and blamed Brown’s death on the way he was raised by his parents.

Depicting Obama as a great national divider who encourages disunity among racial groups, Peterson questioned why support of the president was still strong within the black community. “According to the polls that I’ve seen, about 86 percent of black people still support Barack Obama, knowing that he supports abortion on demand — if a baby should come out alive, let the baby down on the medical table. They know now that he supports homosexuality, same-sex marriage. They know that he’s a racist and that he hates Christians, he hates the Jews,” he said. “He never tries to unite the races but divide them with lies, rather than unite them with truth.”

Peterson then blamed Brown’s death on the teen and his parents, dismissing the idea that racism was at all a factor. “When Michael Brown decided that he was going to rob a store and attack a police officer, he decided that he was ready to die,” he continued. “That was his decision, and so I blame Michael Brown and I blame his parents who did not raise him right. They did not raise a good citizen, they raised a thug, and they failed him and it is there fault along with Michael Brown. It had nothing to do with race at all.”

After Schneider brought up several black members of Congress who took part in a demonstration protesting police brutality, Peterson accused civil rights advocates of fanning the flames of racial animosity in order to preserve their power: “We are eventually, short of a miracle from God, we are going to have a race war on our hands. And that’s what Obama and others want, so they can come in and just put us in bondage even more so.”

Peterson also attacked the people who attended “thug” Michael Brown’s “disgusting” funeral for having “talked about that guy as though he is Jesus Christ.”

“They sent out a message to the rest of the black children and youngins that you could be a thug and because a white man was involved in it, we’re going to honor you as though you are a hero,” he said. “If that wasn’t evil then I don’t know what is.”

Larry Pratt Accuses Congresswoman He Threatened Of 'Hissy Fit': 'You're Nuts, Lady, Shut Up'

Back in March, Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, gave a radio interview in which he told the story of one of his group’s members threatening a member of Congress, which Pratt thought was just fine because the fear of being shot is “probably a healthy fear” for elected officials to have. A few months later, the exchange made it into a Rolling Stone profile of Pratt and caught the eye of Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who it turns out was the threatened congresswoman in question, and who immediately notified the Capitol Police.

Pratt’s group reacted to this news by calling Rep. Maloney “foolish” and claiming that she just didn’t understand “key historical documents.” And since then, Pratt has repeatedly doubled down on his comments, saying that elected officials should live “in constant trepidation” of citizens turning to the “cartridge box,” arguing that politicians fearing for their lives “ is what the Second Amendment is all about,” and hoping for an increase in politicians “dispatched” while trying to avoid “metal jackets.”

Pratt, in fact, was so delighted by the story of threats to Rep. Maloney that he told it last month to a gathering of the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association in Washington, a group that believes states and counties should ignore federal gun laws.

Rep. Maloney, Pratt said, “went off on a hissy fit” after hearing his comments. The Capitol Police, he added, “came back with a conclusion that there was no articulable threat, which I think was a nice way of saying, ‘You’re nuts, lady, shut up.’”

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