Religious Right Targets Overhaul Of Texas Social Studies Standards

Religious Right activists in Texas are targeting the state’s social studies standards in a new effort to force their dogma into the public school curriculum.

The Texas State Board of Education is working on appointing a social studies curriculum “expert” panel. According to the Texas Freedom Network (TFN), a group that monitors the Religious Right in the state, notorious “Christian nation” pseudo-historian David Barton is at the top of the list.

Barton is the founder and president of Texas-based WallBuilders, an organization that pushes a fundamentalist version of American history. A graduate of Oral Roberts University, Barton has no academic credentials as a historian, and his historical accounts reflect “Christian nation” propaganda.

Formerly the Texas Republican Party’s vice chairman, Barton argues that separation of church and state is a “myth” and laws should be based on Scripture. He has self published two books outlining his views, as well as a tome arguing that the Supreme Court’s school prayer decisions of the 1960s led to a rise in violence, teen pregnancy, divorce and alcoholism.

Barton has also circulated quotes by historical figures that he was forced to admit later could not be confirmed.

Barton told the Rev. Donald Wildmon’s OneNewsNow that the current Texas history standards are terrible.

“For example, the panel managed to eliminate all references to free enterprise out of our history, social study, government textbooks, and that’s the type of things we find,” Barton said. “The religious bigotry that’s there, preference for secular stuff, ignoring the religious foundations. There’s a mis-description of the types and forms of government that we have. There’s no mention of American exceptionalism – the fact that we are the most successful nation in the history of the world with a government that bears fruit to that.”

Barton added that he expects outside groups to “holler and scream” about his suggestions.

TFN reports that also slated for the State Board of Education’s “expert” social studies panel is the Rev. Peter Marshall of Peter Marshall Ministries in Massachusetts, who has a seminary degree.

Marshall’s ministry sells Christian-themed instructional materials for homeschoolers. He argues “that it is impossible to restore America to its traditional moral and spiritual foundations unless we recover our original founding vision, and the truth about America’s Christian heritage.”

TFN President Kathy Miller expressed dismay over these possible appointments. “It’s absurd to suggest that Texas universities don’t have accomplished scholars in the field who are more qualified than ideologues who share a narrow political agenda,” Miller said. “What’s next? Rush Limbaugh on the ‘expert’ panel?”

The flap over social studies came just days after the board became the center of controversy as it debated whether to include creationist code language in the state’s new public school science curriculum.

Nearly half of the board’s members are Religious Right allies who aim to use their positions to push creationist concepts in the Texas public school system. After weeks of wrangling, they succeeded in passing a few last-minute amendments that critics say could open the door to creationist concepts in class.

Heading up the board is Don McLeroy, a fundamentalist appointed chairman by Texas Gov. Rick Perry in 2007. McLeroy has made it clear he does not care what scientists have to say about evolution or any other scientific topic.

But McLeroy may have overstepped with his creationism crusade. Some Senate leaders were angry over the flap and the image it gave Texas. McLeroy’s confirmation as chairman seems likely to fail.

“You’ve created a hornet’s nest like I’ve never seen here,” said State Sen. Eliot Shapleigh to McLeroy during Senate hearings. “You have a point of view, and you’re using this bully pulpit to take the rest of the state there.”