Texas State Board of Education

David Barton Files Defamation Suits Against Three

Yesterday David Barton dedicated his "Wallbuilders Live" rado program yesterday to addressing various criticisms he has been received, among them allegations that he has spoken at events hosted by racist and anti-Semitic groups.

As we noted in our post, Barton stated that he had been forced to file defamation lawsuits to protect his reputation. And, according to The Weatherford Democrat, that is exactly what he has done:

David Barton of Aledo-based WallBuilders has filed a libel and defamation law suit against an Internet writer and two former Texas State Board of Education candidates.

Barton is alleging public policy opponents have falsely painted him as a white supremacist sympathizer and liar.

The suit unspecified damages from the three defendants for allegedly exposing Barton and WallBuilders to “public hatred, contempt, ridicule, financial injury and impeaching [Barton’s] honesty, integrity and virtue.”

The suit alleges Barton has been subjected to a loss of business because of the false statements.

The article reports that Barton has filed suit against two Democratic Texas State Board of Education candidates over YouTube video that asserted that Barton was "known for speaking at white supremacist rallies" and an Examiner.com writer who asserted that Barton is "an admitted liar."

Cynthia Dunbar: Using TX School Standards To Offset "Biblically Illiterate Society"

During the "Religious Liberty and the LGBT Agenda" panel at The Awakening 2011 that Brian mentioned in the last post, former Texas State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar admitted that the right-wing activists on the Board used the recent update to the state's social studies curriculum as an opportunity to counter the fact that "we have a Biblically illiterate society."

As she explained, they included in the new curriculum a requirement that students must learn about "the law's of nature and nature's God" so that they will be taught that "the 'laws of nature' is the will of our maker and because of the fallen state of man, we have to have the 'laws of nature's God' revealed through the Holy Scripture":

Conservative Think Tank Blasts Texas' "Blatant Politicizing" of Education

The Texas State Board of Education’s right-wing spin on U.S. history has earned the state a “D” from a conservative education think tank. Mary Tuma of the Texas Independent notes that the Thomas B. Fordham Institute is a “national conservative group calls for a ‘radical’ overhaul of U.S. history standards at K-12 public schools nationwide,” but even the self-declared “right-of-center” group couldn’t deny the drastic manipulation of the education curriculum by the far-right SBOE. The new education standards, outlined in the Right Wing Watch In-Focus: Texas Textbooks, downplay the roles of the civil rights and labor movements, whitewash slavery and Japanese internment, utilize a Religious Right view of the Constitution and the nation’s founding, and embrace a partisan Republican reading of history (among other changes) in an attempt to remove the alleged “liberal bias” of history textbooks.

The Fordham Institute lowered Texas’ rating from a C to a D due to the SBOE’s “blatant politicizing,” saying that “history is distorted throughout the document in the interest of political talking points.” According to the report, the new Texas standards are “inculcated” with “right-wing policy positions” and promote the Religious Right’s interpretation of government as the “Biblical influences on America’s founding are exaggerated, if not invented.” The report states:

Texas’s heavily politicized 2010 revisions to its social studies curriculum have attracted massive national attention. Indeed, both in public hearings and press interviews, the leaders of the State Board of Education made no secret of their evangelical Christian right agenda, promising to inculcate biblical principles, patriotic values, and American exceptionalism. And politics do figure heavily in the resulting TEKS.



While such social studies doctrine is usually associated with the relativist and diversity-obsessed educational left, the right-dominated Texas Board of Education made no effort to replace traditional social studies dogma with substantive historical content. Instead, it seems to have grafted on its own conservative talking points. The lists of “historically significant” names, for example, incorporate all the familiar politically correct group categories (women and minorities are systematically included in all such lists, regardless of their relative historical significance). At the same time, however, the document distorts or suppresses less triumphal or more nuanced aspects of our past that the Board found politically unacceptable (slavery and segregation are all but ignored, while religious influences are grossly exaggerated). The resulting fusion is a confusing, unteachable hodgepodge, blending the worst of two educational dogmas.


Complex historical issues are obscured with blatant politicizing throughout the document. Biblical influences on America’s founding are exaggerated, if not invented. The complicated but undeniable history of separation between church and state is flatly dismissed. From the earliest grades, students are pressed to uncritically celebrate the “free enterprise system and its benefits.” “Minimal government intrusion” is hailed as key to the early nineteenth-century commercial boom—ignoring the critical role of the state and federal governments in internal improvements and economic expansion. Native peoples are missing until brief references to nineteenth-century events. Slavery, too, is largely missing. Sectionalism and states’ rights are listed before slavery as causes of the Civil War, while the issue of slavery in the territories—the actual trigger for the sectional crisis—is never mentioned at all. During and after Reconstruction, there is no mention of the Black Codes, the Ku Klux Klan, or sharecropping; the term “Jim Crow” never appears. Incredibly, racial segregation is only mentioned in a passing reference to the 1948 integration of the armed forces.


In the modern era, the standards list “the internment of German, Italian and Japanese Americans and Executive Order 9066”—exaggerating the comparatively trivial internment of German and Italian Americans, and thereby obscuring the incontrovertible racial dimension of the larger and more systematic Japanese American internment. It is disingenuously suggested that the House Un-American Activities Committee— and, by extension, McCarthyism—have been vindicated by the Venona decrypts of Soviet espionage activities (which had, in reality, no link to McCarthy’s targets). Opposition to the civil rights movement is falsely identified only with “the congressional bloc of Southern Democrats”—whose later metamorphosis into Southern Republicans is never mentioned. Specific right-wing policy positions are inculcated as well. For example, students are explicitly urged to condemn federal entitlement programs, including Texas-born Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society,” and to mistrust international treaties (considered threats to American sovereignty).



Slavery, so central to the history of Texas, is mentioned only in passing. And then, of course, the other seven strands “cover” the same period yet again. In the high school U.S. history course, the pattern is the same. Scattered examples and lists of names quickly move through late nineteenth-century politics, the emergence of the United States as a world power, Progressivism, and the 1920s; on to the civil rights movement, the Reagan era, 9/11 and beyond. Once again, the other strands revisit the same ground from different perspectives, adding more isolated factoids and ill-matched lists of names. Then, the government and economics courses (themselves subdivided into the usual strands) “cover” the subject yet again, each strand and course offering further fragments of material in a historically incomprehensible jumble.

Conservative Think Tank Blasts Texas' "Blatant Politicizing" of Education

The Texas State Board of Education’s right-wing spin on U.S. history has earned the state a “D” from a conservative education think tank. Mary Tuma of the Texas Independent notes that the Thomas B. Fordham Institute is a “national conservative group calls for a ‘radical’ overhaul of U.S. history standards at K-12 public schools nationwide,” but even the self-declared “right-of-center” group couldn’t deny the drastic manipulation of the education curriculum by the far-right SBOE. The new education standards, outlined in the Right Wing Watch In-Focus: Texas Textbooks, downplay the roles of the civil rights and labor movements, whitewash slavery and Japanese internment, utilize a Religious Right view of the Constitution and the nation’s founding, and embrace a partisan Republican reading of history (among other changes) in an attempt to remove the alleged “liberal bias” of history textbooks.

The Fordham Institute lowered Texas’ rating from a C to a D due to the SBOE’s “blatant politicizing,” saying that “history is distorted throughout the document in the interest of political talking points.” According to the report, the new Texas standards are “inculcated” with “right-wing policy positions” and promote the Religious Right’s interpretation of government as the “Biblical influences on America’s founding are exaggerated, if not invented.” The report states:

Texas’s heavily politicized 2010 revisions to its social studies curriculum have attracted massive national attention. Indeed, both in public hearings and press interviews, the leaders of the State Board of Education made no secret of their evangelical Christian right agenda, promising to inculcate biblical principles, patriotic values, and American exceptionalism. And politics do figure heavily in the resulting TEKS.



While such social studies doctrine is usually associated with the relativist and diversity-obsessed educational left, the right-dominated Texas Board of Education made no effort to replace traditional social studies dogma with substantive historical content. Instead, it seems to have grafted on its own conservative talking points. The lists of “historically significant” names, for example, incorporate all the familiar politically correct group categories (women and minorities are systematically included in all such lists, regardless of their relative historical significance). At the same time, however, the document distorts or suppresses less triumphal or more nuanced aspects of our past that the Board found politically unacceptable (slavery and segregation are all but ignored, while religious influences are grossly exaggerated). The resulting fusion is a confusing, unteachable hodgepodge, blending the worst of two educational dogmas.


Complex historical issues are obscured with blatant politicizing throughout the document. Biblical influences on America’s founding are exaggerated, if not invented. The complicated but undeniable history of separation between church and state is flatly dismissed. From the earliest grades, students are pressed to uncritically celebrate the “free enterprise system and its benefits.” “Minimal government intrusion” is hailed as key to the early nineteenth-century commercial boom—ignoring the critical role of the state and federal governments in internal improvements and economic expansion. Native peoples are missing until brief references to nineteenth-century events. Slavery, too, is largely missing. Sectionalism and states’ rights are listed before slavery as causes of the Civil War, while the issue of slavery in the territories—the actual trigger for the sectional crisis—is never mentioned at all. During and after Reconstruction, there is no mention of the Black Codes, the Ku Klux Klan, or sharecropping; the term “Jim Crow” never appears. Incredibly, racial segregation is only mentioned in a passing reference to the 1948 integration of the armed forces.


In the modern era, the standards list “the internment of German, Italian and Japanese Americans and Executive Order 9066”—exaggerating the comparatively trivial internment of German and Italian Americans, and thereby obscuring the incontrovertible racial dimension of the larger and more systematic Japanese American internment. It is disingenuously suggested that the House Un-American Activities Committee— and, by extension, McCarthyism—have been vindicated by the Venona decrypts of Soviet espionage activities (which had, in reality, no link to McCarthy’s targets). Opposition to the civil rights movement is falsely identified only with “the congressional bloc of Southern Democrats”—whose later metamorphosis into Southern Republicans is never mentioned. Specific right-wing policy positions are inculcated as well. For example, students are explicitly urged to condemn federal entitlement programs, including Texas-born Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society,” and to mistrust international treaties (considered threats to American sovereignty).



Slavery, so central to the history of Texas, is mentioned only in passing. And then, of course, the other seven strands “cover” the same period yet again. In the high school U.S. history course, the pattern is the same. Scattered examples and lists of names quickly move through late nineteenth-century politics, the emergence of the United States as a world power, Progressivism, and the 1920s; on to the civil rights movement, the Reagan era, 9/11 and beyond. Once again, the other strands revisit the same ground from different perspectives, adding more isolated factoids and ill-matched lists of names. Then, the government and economics courses (themselves subdivided into the usual strands) “cover” the subject yet again, each strand and course offering further fragments of material in a historically incomprehensible jumble.

Cynthia Dunbar and her Prayers for Public Education

The Texas Freedom Network has been doing amazing work covering the battle over curriculum standards in Texas .. and nothing better explains just what is going on than this post from TFN today highlighting the prayer delivered by right-wing Texas State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar to open the Board's debate over what the next generation of Texas students will learn about separation of church and state:

Even before the Texas State Board of Education took up its expected debate today over what students will learn about separation about church and state in their social studies classrooms, board member Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, made her position clear. She offered the board’s opening prayer this morning and removed any doubt about what she and other far-right board members want students to learn: America’s laws and government should be based on the Christian Bible.

Laying out in blunt language the “Christian nation” vision of American history that the board’s powerful bloc of social conservatives espouses, Dunbar threw down the gauntlet:

“I believe no one can read the history of our country without realizing that the Good Book and the spirit of the savior have from the beginning been our guiding geniuses.”

“Whether we look to the first charter of Virginia, or the charter of New England…the same objective is present — a Christian land governed by Christian principles.”

“I like to believe we are living today in the spirit of the Christian religion. I like also to believe that as long as we do so, no great harm can come to our country.”

This post reminded me that I had footage of Dunbar delivering a prayer for education at Janet Porter's May Day 2010 prayer rally earlier this month during which she proclaimed that the government had become destructive to the rights of its citizens and that it was time for "we the people to stand up and make the changes" while seeking forgiveness for having "trained generation after generation to not know that it's the providential hand of God" that has made America great and asking God to invade our school system to overcome the false idea that there are areas of instruction or knowledge "that can be found absent and devoid of the presence of the most high God": 

May Day on the Mall: Lifting The Curse That Obama's Election Has Brought Upon America

 
On Saturday, May 1, Religious Right leaders and public officials will gather at the steps below the Lincoln Memorial to beg God to forgive America for having elected wicked leaders like President Obama. If you can’t make it to the national mall on Saturday morning, you can watch live on God TV or via webcast thanks to the American Family Association.
 
The "May Day - A Cry to God for a Nation in Distress" event is the brainchild of Janet Porter, a Religious Right activist/conspiracy theory-promoting radio host, and member of presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee’s inner circle. Porter believes America is under a curse for having “made the choice of death” by electing President Obama (even though God TV warned us not to). She announced the May Day event at last fall’s How to Take Back America conference.  
 
Since then, Porter has lined up support from a significant number of Religious Right heavy-hitters like former Focus on the Family head James Dobson, who recorded an audio message recruiting pastors to get involved, and at least five members of Congress, including  Randy “Pray Against Health Care” Forbes (Virginia), Trent “Obama is an enemy of humanity” Franks (Arizona), Louie “Hate Crimes Act is a Pedophile Protection Act” Gohmert (Texas), and Steve “Know Your Enemies” King (Iowa).  
 

Behold David Barton's Constitutional "Expertise"

David Barton of Wallbuilders likes to fancy himself an expert on the Founding Fathers, especially as it pertains to questions regarding their Christian faith and the fundamentally Christian nature of the nation they created.

But Barton also considers himself an expert on the Constitution, which occasionally leads him make absurd claims based on ridiculous analysis, such as his recent argument that any member of Congress who supports working on the Sabbath is violating the Constitution and needs to be tossed out of office.

But that is nothing compared to the argument he put forward yesterday on his radio program, discussing with Rick Green his objection to the use of "deem and pass" in getting health care reform legislation passed on the grounds that the Constitution requires that all votes in the House and Senate require a recorded Yea or Nay vote:

Constitutionally you can't do this. And it's real simple because the Constitution specifies how Congress is to vote. And if you look at Article 1, Section 7, Paragraph 2, which is repeated in Article 1, Section 5, Paragraph 3 - and I don't mean to be throwing out numbers, but I do that just to say, hey, there are specific locations in the Constitution for this - those Constitutions [sic] say that the votes of both houses shall be determined by Yeas and Nays.  In other words, you've got to go through and say "yes" or "no" individually ... The Constitution requires that those who have a voice have to sound their voice either as a Yea or a Nay ... and it also says that regardless of what House rules are, the Constitution says that if twenty percent of members of the House want a recorded vote, they get a recorded vote.

Now "deem and pass" is not a recorded vote ... that's not a vote on the bill, that's not Yeas and Nays, that is not a recorded vote on the issue ... You can't do it constitutionally.  The Constitution requires the yes and no votes on the particular issue. So we never should have even been at the place where we talked about "deem and pass," and what struck me was that nobody was citing the Constitution on it. 

Now, maybe the reason nobody was citing this "constitutional" argument is because Barton's analysis is laughably shoddy.

Let's take a look at Article 1, Section 7, Paragraph 2 (emphasis added): 

Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a law, be presented to the President of the United States; if he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the objections at large on their journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the bill, it shall be sent, together with the objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a law. But in all such cases the votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and nays, and the names of the persons voting for and against the bill shall be entered on the journal of each House respectively. If any bill shall not be returned by the President within ten days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be a law, in like manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their adjournment prevent its return, in which case it shall not be a law.

Clearly, the section lays out the rules for a Presidential veto and Congressional options for overriding such a veto and the requirement for a recorded vote of yeas and nays is in reference to veto override votes only.  It does not say that every vote requires a recorded vote of yea and nays; it merely say that in situations where Congress is attempting to override a presidential veto, those votes require require yeas and nays and must be recorded.

Yet, in Barton's analysis, this means that every vote Congress requires yeas and nays and must be recorded.

Barton also claims that his analysis is supported by Article 1, Section 5, Paragraph 3::

Each House shall keep a journal of its proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such parts as may in their judgment require secrecy; and the yeas and nays of the members of either House on any question shall, at the desire of one fifth of those present, be entered on the journal.

Somehow, Barton gleans from this provision mandating the occasional publication of the House journal a requirement that every single vote requires a recorded yea or nay vote. 

Keep in mind that this is the sort of expertise that Barton brought to the Texas State Board of Education when he was named to serve on its panel of "experts" to redesign the state's social studies curriculum ... and that sort of constitutional expertise that Green wants to take onto the Texas Supreme Court.

Texas School Board Member Cynthia Dunbar Joins May Day Prayer Rally

Faith 2 Action's Janet Porter continues to move ahead with her organizing for the "May Day: a Cry to God for Our Nation in Distress" prayer rally at the Lincoln Memorial on May 1:

Porter called on Christians to take part in a 40-day fast prior to the event. She said participants will give up something important to them in the days leading up to May Day.

"We just want God to know we're serious about standing in the gap for America," she said. "We are calling the remnant to come and repent. It's a two-fold plan to not only pray but to proclaim what our founders believed – that we are one nation under God."

Vision America President Dr. Rick Scarborough added, "We need to let God know we're serious about turning back to Him and fasting from something – whether it's television, dessert or food – will provide the breakthrough we desperately need as a nation."

...

Pro-family leaders across denominational boundaries have joined together for the effort including: Dr. James Dobson, American Family Association President Tim Wildmon, Concerned Women for America President Wendy Wright, Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver, NRB President Dr. Frank Wright, Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, Dutch Sheets, David Barton and many members of Congress.

Porter has explained that the event is designed to break the curse that our nation is under for having elected President Obama, and now she's picking up some interesting new supporters for her effort:

Porter said Cynthia Dunbar, a lawyer who serves on the Texas State Board of Education, will attend and ask God for forgiveness for how the nation has removed Him from American schools.

"She is going to come to May Day and repent for how we have taught our children lies, not only in revisionist history but also evolution, how we've kicked God out of school," Porter said. "She will repent on behalf of the education system, and she's also going to welcome God back in."

Dunbar played a central role in Texas' recent rewriting of its social studies requirements in order to make them better reflect the conservative worldview and, given her views, it is no surprise that she would team up with the likes of Porter:

In 2008, Cynthia Dunbar published a book called “One Nation Under God,” in which she stated more openly than most of her colleagues have done the argument that the founding of America was an overtly Christian undertaking and laid out what she and others hope to achieve in public schools. “The underlying authority for our constitutional form of government stems directly from biblical precedents,” she writes. “Hence, the only accurate method of ascertaining the intent of the Founding Fathers at the time of our government’s inception comes from a biblical worldview.”

Then she pushes forward: “We as a nation were intended by God to be a light set on a hill to serve as a beacon of hope and Christian charity to a lost and dying world.” But the true picture of America’s Christian founding has been whitewashed by “the liberal agenda” — in order for liberals to succeed “they must first rewrite our nation’s history” and obscure the Christian intentions of the founders. Therefore, she wrote, “this battle for our nation’s children and who will control their education and training is crucial to our success for reclaiming our nation.”

After the book came out, Dunbar was derided in blogs and newspapers for a section in which she writes of “the inappropriateness of a state-created, taxpayer-supported school system” and likens sending children to public school to “throwing them into the enemy’s flames, even as the children of Israel threw their children to Moloch.” (Her own children were either home-schooled or educated in private Christian schools.) When I asked, over dinner in a honky-tonk steakhouse down the road from the university, why someone who felt that way would choose to become an overseer of arguably the most influential public-education system in the country, she said that public schools are a battlefield for competing ideologies and that it’s important to combat the “religion” of secularism that holds sway in public education.

On a related note, Rev. Paul Blair of Reclaiming Oklahoma for Christ has put together this video urging people to attend the May Day event and "appeal in penitent prayer to the King of Kings for revival in our land":

What Does Abortion Have to Do With The Race For Texas School Board?

As you undoubtedly know by now, controlling the textbooks and curriculum in Texas has long been a  focus of the Religious Right, which is why they bring in "experts" like David Barton to help shape them and why elections for seats on the Board of Education can get pretty crazy.

How crazy?  Well, as the Texas Freedom Network reports, so crazy that anti-abortion groups are robocalling voters urging them to support specific candidates in the Republican primary today: 

We have a report that Joe Pojman of the far-right Texas Alliance for Life is robocalling voters in the District 10 Texas State Board of Education race today. Pojman is letting voters know that Brian Russell, one of the candidates in tomorrow’s Republican primary for the board seat, is “pro-life.”

What in blazes does the State Board of Education have to do with abortion politics? Nothing — except for religious-right pressure groups and activists, for whom the “culture wars” are all-consuming. Telling voters about Russell’s opposition to abortion is Pojman’s way of letting religious-right voters know who should get their vote in the race for the state board seat currently held by the departing Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond. (Dunbar recruited Russell, an Austin attorney who homeschools his children, to run for the seat.)

We don’t know what Russell’s Republican opponents, Marsha Farney and Rebecca Osborne, think about abortion. But now you know the priorities of Russell and his supporters on the far-right: they have every intention of continuing to drag our children’s schools into senseless and divisive “culture war” battles even on issues that have nothing to do with public education.

A TFN reader recorded the robocall and posted the audio:

Hello, this is Dr. Joe Pojman with the Texas Alliance for Life PAC urging you to get out and vote for Brian Russell for the State Board of Education in the Republican primary election

Tomorrow, Tuesday, March 2 is Election Day.

Brian Russell is staunchly pro-life and is the only candidate to score 100% on the Texas Alliance for Life candidates survey.

Your vote is critical. Please support Brian Russell for the State Board of Education.

For more information, visit texasallianceforlife.org

Mike Huckabee's Friends And Associates

Because I think it is important to keep pointing out the sorts of Religious Right leaders that Mike Huckabee regularly associates himself with, I just wanted to post this clip from a recent episode of "Huckabee" that featured Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel taking about text books in Texas:

This weekend Mathew D. Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, will appear on Mike Huckabee’s show to discuss potentially dramatic changes to the framework of textbooks that are being discussed by the Texas State Board of Education (TSBOE). Huckabee and Staver will be revealing suggested changes, some of which are still under discussion. TSBOE will soon finalize the language that textbook publishers use to align their textbooks to current standards. As Texas is a leader in textbooks, most other states purchase the same educational materials. The show will begin at 8:00 p.m. on Saturday and 2:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Sunday, Eastern Time.

Some of the suggestions that have come forward at various times include:

* Removing references to Daniel Boone, General George Patton, Nathan Hale, Columbus Day, and Christmas.
* Including the cultural impact of hip hop music, ACLU lawyer Clarence Darrow, and the Hindu holiday of Diwali.
* Replacing the term "American" with "Global Citizen"– stating that students need to be shaped "for responsible citizenship in a global society" without any mention of citizenship in American society.
* Replacing expansionism and free enterprise with imperialism and capitalism.

...

Mathew Staver commented: “To have a bright future we must know our past. Those who want to reshape America begin by rewriting our past. We repeat the mistakes of the past when we are ignorant of them. America has a rich past founded on Judeo-Christian values. To forget them, or worse, to distort them, will doom our future. That is why the textbook controversy in Texas affects every American.”

Staver has long been close to Huckabee, having served on his Faith and Family Values Coalition during his presidential campaign. 

Recently, Staver made news when it was announced that Liberty University would be withdrawing from CPAC due to the fact that a gay conservative group was allowed to sign on as a co-sponsor, which made sense considering that at last year's CPAC, Staver declared that marriage equality would inevitably lead to an entire generation of violent criminals. 

Staver and Liberty U will also be hosting a 2-day anti-gay summit later this week, while Staver and Liberty University also represented Lisa Miller, the who kidnapped her daughter and disappeared rather than abide by court ordered custody arrangements.

David Barton: "Expert"

It is no secret that we have not been overly impressed with David Barton's various titles or his accuracy or his "expertise" over the years, which is why we were rather confused when the Texas State Board of Education named him to serve on its panel of "experts" to redesign the state's social studies curriculum.

Want to know why?  Well, today Barton provides a perfect example in an email he sent out defending his role in the process in which he makes this patently false claim:

Groups such as the Texas Freedom Network (the state arm of the radical People for the American Way) joined with other radicals in the Religious Left to denounce my mentions of Christianity. They nationally distributed a press release of outrageously false claims that were soon parroted by ABC, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, etc.

I have no idea where Barton got the idea that TFN is in any way affiliated with PFAW, much less a "state arm" of this organization.  

TFN is a great organization that does great work, especially covering the very issue Barton is writing about. And while we do share their mission to advance "a mainstream agenda of religious freedom and individual liberties to counter the religious right," the two organizations are in no way affiliated.  

If Barton has some actual evidence that PFAW and TFN are affiliated, I'd love to see it because I 've been working here for ten years and I know nothing about it.  

Good work on your choice of "experts" there, Texas Board of Education.

David Barton: "Historian"

What kind of historical "expertise" is the Texas State Board of Education getting from David Barton as he helps review and create the state's social studies curriculum? 

According to the Texas Freedom Network, this is the sort of expert advice Barton is dispensing: 

Buried on page 62 of phony history “expert” David Barton’s 87-page review of the social studies draft curriculum standards is a short section calling for the following revision to the eighth-grade American History requirements:

(C) analyze reasons for and the impact of selected examples of civil disobedience in U.S. history such as the Boston Tea Party, Shay’s Rebellion, Henry David Thoreau’s refusal to pay a tax, the Underground Railroad, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and Rosa Parks at the lunch counter.

This is especially amazing because it was Park's refusal to give up her seat on the bus that led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. 

Does Barton not know this? 

Texas Curriculum: Thurgood Marshall Out, Newt Gingrich In?

Back in April, the Texas Freedom Network reported that the Texas State Board of Education had named both David Barton of WallBuilders and the Rev. Peter Marshall, who suggests that California wildfires and Hurricane Katrina were divine punishments for tolerance of homosexuality, to its social studies curriculum “experts” panel.

When Barton and Marshall released their recommendations for changing the curriculum, they suggested, among other things, dropping mentions of both César Chavez and Thurgood Marshall.

"Review committees" are now putting together a draft of a new curriculum based on recommendations from the "expert" panel and it looks they are set to fill their history books with figures like Newt Gingrich, James Dobson, and Phyllis Schlafly:

Texas high school students would learn about such significant individuals and milestones of conservative politics as Newt Gingrich and the rise of the Moral Majority under the first draft of new standards for public school history textbooks, but nothing about people or groups considered more liberal.

...

The first draft for proposed standards in "United States History Studies Since Reconstruction" says students should be expected "to identify significant conservative advocacy organizations and individuals, such as Newt Gingrich, Phyllis Schlafly and the Moral Majority."

...

Conservatives form the largest bloc on the 15-member State Board of Education, whose partisan makeup is 10 Republicans and five Democrats.

David Bradley, R-Beaumont, one of the conservative leaders, figures that the current draft will pass a preliminary vote along party lines "once the napalm and smoke clear the room."

But not all conservative board members share that view.

"It is hard to believe that a majority of the writing team would approve of such wording," said Terri Leo, R-Spring. "It’s not even a representative selection of the conservative movement, and it is inappropriate."

Another board conservative, Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio, said he thinks that students should study both sides to "see what the differences are and be able to define those differences."

He would add James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, conservative talk show host Sean Hannity and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee to the list of conservatives. Others have proposed adding talk show host Rush Limbaugh and the National Rifle Association.

Mercer says he would also mention groups like the National Education Association, MoveOn.org, Planned Parenthood and the Texas Freedom Network so that students will be "able to identify what’s conservative ... [a]nd what is liberal in contrast."

For Barton, History and Religion Are One And The Same

Back in April, it was reported that David Barton had been appointed to serve on the Texas State Board of Education's "panel of experts" tasked with examining the state's social studies curriculum.

At the time, Barton made is clear that his goal was to ensure that the standards better reflected his right-wing views regarding our nation's history, especially as it pertained to the issue of religion, but vowed to be so thoroughly accurate that nobody would be able to question his biased recommendations:

Barton expects outside groups to "holler and scream" about his recommendations to fix those errors due to the fact that he is a Christian and a conservative. But he adds that he and other members of the panel will give recommendations that are so historically accurate that board members will have a hard time refuting them.

Needless to say, it came as no surprise that when Barton unveiled his recommended changes [PDF], it contained a heavy focus on the need to teach students about the religious aspects of the nation's history:

Understanding American Government. Students [Grade 5 (a)(1), (b)(16)] are told to “identify the roots of representative government in this nation as well as the important ideas in the Declaration of Independence,” but nowhere are those ideas specifically identified. Students should be familiar with the fundamental principles of America government set forth in the 126 words in the first three sentences at the beginning of the Declaration and those principles should be regularly reviewed throughout their tenure as a student:

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitles them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

(It is from this section that students are to recite by memory under state law.)

The principles set forth here and subsequently secured in the Constitution and Bill of Rights include:

1. There is a fixed moral law derived from God and nature
2. There is a Creator
3. The Creator gives to man certain unalienable rights
4. Government exists primarily to protect God-given rights to every individual
5. Below God-given rights and moral law, government is directed by the consent of the governed

Students must also understand the Framers’ very explicit (and very frequent) definition of inalienable rights as being those rights given by God to every individual, independent of any government anywhere (as John Adams explained, inalienable rights are those rights that are “antecedent to all earthly government; rights [that] cannot be repealed or restrained by human laws; rights [that are] derived from the Great Legislator of the Universe”). The inalienable rights specifically listed in the Declaration include those of life, liberty, and property, and the Bill of Rights subsequently identified other inalienable rights, including freedoms of religion, press, speech, assembly, and petition; the right of self-defense; the sanctity of the home; and due process. Each of these rights is to remain beyond the scope of government and is to be protected inviolable by government. These fundamental five precepts of American government must be thoroughly understood by students, but they are not currently addressed in the TEKS.

This is standard procedure for Barton: claiming that he is merely explaining history while focusing entirely on promoting his claims that American was fundamentally designed to be a Christian nation. 

In fact, he has more or less admitted that to ABC News

David Barton, president of the Texas-based Christian heritage advocacy group WallBuilders, is another expert on the panel who would like to see changes made to the school curriculum.

"I think there should be more of an emphasis on history in the social studies curriculum," Barton said. "If there is an emphasis on history, there will be a demonstration of religion."

...

Barton told ABCNews.com that he believes Texas' public school curriculum should "reflect the fact that the U.S. Constitution was written with God in mind."

And this is exactly the sort of result one would expect when a biased pseudo-historian like Barton is appointed to a "panel of experts" tasked with evaluating public school curriculum.

From Bad to Worse In Texas

The Texas Freedom Network was tireless in exposing Don McLeroy, Gov. Rick Perry's choice to serve as chair of the Texas State Board of Education, and chronicling his hearings and ultimate rejection by the state Senate.

But now TFN reports that Perry's choice of replacement is even worse, pointing to this San Antonio Express-News article:

Critics who engineered the recent ouster of State Board of Education Chairman Don McLeroy, in part because of his strong religious beliefs, could end up with someone even more outspoken in her faith.

Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, who advocated more Christianity in the public square last year with the publication of her book, One Nation Under God, is among those that Gov. Rick Perry is considering to lead the State Board of Education, some of her colleagues say.

...

In a book published last year, Dunbar argued the country’s founding fathers created “an emphatically Christian government” and that government should be guided by a “biblical litmus test.” She endorses a belief system that requires “any person desiring to govern have a sincere knowledge and appreciation for the Word of God in order to rightly govern.”

Also in the book, she calls public education a “subtly deceptive tool of perversion.”

The establishment of public schools is unconstitutional and even “tyrannical,” she wrote, because it threatens the authority of families, granted by God through Scripture, to direct the instruction of their children.

Dunbar home-schooled her own children.

TFN provides more background:

Dunbar has clearly expressed her loathing for public education in her book One Nation Under God, calling public schools a “tool of perversion,” “unconstitutional” and “tryannical.” She has also personally rejected the public school system, home-schooling her children. In fact, she wrote in her book that sending our children to public schools is “throwing them into the enemy’s flames even as the children of Israel threw their children to Moloch.”

Just before the November election, Dunbar also authored a vicious Internet rant in which she called Barack Obama a terrorist sympathizer who wants to seize total power by declaring martial law. In another Internet screed, she charged that Obama is promoting Marxism by calling for “shared sacrifice and social responsibility.”

Perry apparently thinks that someone who homeschooled her own children because public schools are  "tool of perversion" is perfectly suited to being placed in charge of the Texas school system.

For A Change of Pace, Noted "Historian" Barton Vows To Be "Accurate"

A few weeks ago, we pointed to a Texas Freedom Network post reporting that the Texas State Board of Education was going to appoint David Barton to a social studies curriculum “expert” panel, which was absurd given Barton’s flagrant lack of expertise on anything other than misrepresenting history in order to further his own right-wing political agenda.  

But perhaps nothing better sums up the absurdity of this move than this article from OneNewsNow, considering that just about every claim and statement it contains is laughable, starting with its title: “History scholar hopes to revamp Texas curriculum”:

WallBuilders is a Texas-based conservative organization "dedicated to presenting America's forgotten history and heroes." Organization president David Barton has once again been selected by the Texas State Board of Education to review proposed history curriculum and prepare a report as the board reviews new standards for history in The Lone Star State. He says the new curriculum currently proposed for the state is in shambles.
 
"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. The religious bigotry that's there, preference for secular stuff, ignoring the religious foundations," he notes.

"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 expects outside groups to "holler and scream" about his recommendations to fix those errors due to the fact that he is a Christian and a conservative. But he adds that he and other members of the panel will give recommendations that are so historically accurate that board members will have a hard time refuting them.

Seriously, the assertion that Barton’s recommendations will be “so historically accurate that board members will have a hard time refuting them” made me laugh out loud considering that being accurate has never been a particular concern for Barton in the past.

Barton Named to Texas School Board "Experts" Panel

We don't pay that much attention to the ins-and-outs of goings-on regarding the Texas State Board of Education, but the Texas Freedom Network certainly does and they report this latest development:

The Texas State Board of Education is set to appoint a social studies curriculum “expert” panel that includes absurdly unqualified ideologues who are hostile to public education and argue that laws and public policies should be based on their narrow interpretations of the Bible.

TFN has obtained the names of “experts” appointed by far-right state board members. Those panelists will guide the revision of social studies curriculum standards for Texas public schools. They include David Barton of the fundamentalist, Texas-based group WallBuilders, whose degree is in religious education, not the social sciences, and the Rev. Peter Marshall of Peter Marshall Ministries in Massachusetts, who suggests that California wildfires and Hurricane Katrina were divine punishments for tolerance of homosexuality.

The two have argued that the Constitution doesn’t protect separation of church and state and hold a variety of other extreme views related to religion, education and government, TFN President Kathy Miller said.

...

Barton, former vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party, is a self-styled “historian” without any formal training in the field. He argues that separation of church and state is a “myth” and that the nation’s laws should be based on Scripture. He says, for example, that the Bible forbids taxes on income and capital gains. Yet even such groups as Texas Baptists Committed and the Baptist Joint Committee have sharply criticized Barton’s interpretations of the Constitution and history.

Barton also acknowledges having used in his publications and speeches nearly a dozen quotes he has attributed to the nation’s Founders even though he can’t identify any primary sources showing that they really said them.

Some state board members have criticized what they believe are efforts to overemphasize the contributions of minorities in the nation’s history. It is alarming, then, that in 1991 Barton spoke at events hosted by groups tied to white supremacists. He later said he hadn’t known the groups were “part of a Nazi movement.”

In addition, Barton’s WallBuilders Web site suggests as a “helpful” resource the National Association of Christian Educators/Citizens for Excellence in Education, an organization that calls public schools places of "social depravity" and "spiritual slaughter."

The Peter Marshall Ministries Web site includes Marshall’s commentaries sharply attacking Muslims, characterizing the Obama administration as “wicked,” and calling on Christian parents to reject public education for their children.

Marshall has also attacked Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant churches. In his call for a spiritual revival in America last year, he called traditional mainline Protestantism an “institutionally fossilized, Bible-rejecting shell of Christianity.”

TFN also provides informative links to these documents containing more info about both Barton and Marshall, and so I'll just add links to all of our posts on Barton as well as a link to our report on him, "Propaganda Masquerading as History," for good measure.

More De-Evolution in Texas

Last month we noted the oddly creative creationism views being put forth by Don McLeroy, Chairman of the Texas State Board of Education. Now it looks like McLeroy will be getting some company on the Board:

Social conservatives on the State Board of Education have appointed three evolution critics to a six-member committee that will review proposed curriculum standards for science courses in Texas schools.

Two of the appointees are authors of a book that questions many of the tenets of Charles Darwin's theory of how humans and other life forms evolved. One of them, Stephen Meyer, is also vice president of the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based group that promotes an explanation of the origin of life similar to creationism. The other author is Ralph Seelke, a biology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Superior.

Also on the panel is Baylor University chemistry professor Charles Garner, who, like the other two, signed the Discovery Institute's "Dissent from Darwinism" statement that sharply questions key aspects of the theory of evolution.

The Texas Freedom Network's President Kathy Miller notes that the Texas Board of Education is now staffed with out-of-state ideologues, but the right-wing Free Market Foundation notes that it is necessary to keep the Board "balanced"

Jonathan Saenz of the conservative Free Market Foundation said the panel is "balanced" because two of the other three members, UT-Austin biology Professor David Hillis and Texas Tech Professor Gerald Skoog, have joined a group of science educators wanting to eliminate a current requirement that weaknesses of the theory of evolution be taught.

"If the theory of evolution is so strong and without weaknesses, why are the evolutionists so afraid to let students have a discussion about it?" he asked.

"Close-minded efforts to ban students from [hearing both sides] is dangerous and a clear detriment to students."

The Free Market Foundation is sister organization to the Liberty Legal Institute, the organization that was recently active up in Alaska trying to quash the "Troopergate" probe.  Both are run by Kelly Shackelford whom was recently on James Dobson's radio program crowing about how Sarah Palin was the answer to the right-wing movements prayers and explaining his efforts as part of the GOP's platform committee in drafting “the strongest pro-life platform ever in the history of the [Republican] party."

A Most Novel Creationism Argument

It’s not everyday that you come across an erudite argument such as this one that claims that it is not only wise, but fundamentally necessary to teach creationism in science class:

If science is limited to only natural explanations but some natural phenomena are actually the result of supernatural causes then science would never be able to discover that truth — not a very good position for science. Defining science to allow for this possibility is just common sense.

Science must limit itself to testable explanations not natural explanations. Then the supernaturalist will be just as free as the naturalist to make testable explanations of natural phenomena. The view with the best explanation of the empirical evidence should prevail.

In essence, the argument is that some things might have supernatural causes and if we don’t look to the supernatural to explain and understand them, then that is just bad science.  

If this sort of nonsense were written by some right-wing blogger, it could be mocked and dismissed as the ramblings of an ill-informed creationism advocate.  Unfortunately, as the Texas Freedom Network reports, it was actually written by Don McLeroy  who, last year, was named Chairman of the Texas State Board of Education by Gov. Rick Perry and whose credentials regarding evolutionary biology are limited to whatever he happed to pick up while attending dental school.

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Texas State Board of Education Posts Archive

Kyle Mantyla, Wednesday 09/14/2011, 9:17am
Yesterday David Barton dedicated his "Wallbuilders Live" rado program yesterday to addressing various criticisms he has been received, among them allegations that he has spoken at events hosted by racist and anti-Semitic groups. As we noted in our post, Barton stated that he had been forced to file defamation lawsuits to protect his reputation. And, according to The Weatherford Democrat, that is exactly what he has done: David Barton of Aledo-based WallBuilders has filed a libel and defamation law suit against an Internet writer and two former Texas State Board of Education... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Monday 04/11/2011, 12:38pm
During the "Religious Liberty and the LGBT Agenda" panel at The Awakening 2011 that Brian mentioned in the last post, former Texas State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar admitted that the right-wing activists on the Board used the recent update to the state's social studies curriculum as an opportunity to counter the fact that "we have a Biblically illiterate society." As she explained, they included in the new curriculum a requirement that students must learn about "the law's of nature and nature's God" so that they will be taught that "the 'laws... MORE >
Brian Tashman, Thursday 02/17/2011, 11:17am
The Texas State Board of Education’s right-wing spin on U.S. history has earned the state a “D” from a conservative education think tank. Mary Tuma of the Texas Independent notes that the Thomas B. Fordham Institute is a “national conservative group calls for a ‘radical’ overhaul of U.S. history standards at K-12 public schools nationwide,” but even the self-declared “right-of-center” group couldn’t deny the drastic manipulation of the education curriculum by the far-right SBOE. The new education standards, outlined in the Right Wing... MORE >
Brian Tashman, Thursday 02/17/2011, 11:17am
The Texas State Board of Education’s right-wing spin on U.S. history has earned the state a “D” from a conservative education think tank. Mary Tuma of the Texas Independent notes that the Thomas B. Fordham Institute is a “national conservative group calls for a ‘radical’ overhaul of U.S. history standards at K-12 public schools nationwide,” but even the self-declared “right-of-center” group couldn’t deny the drastic manipulation of the education curriculum by the far-right SBOE. The new education standards, outlined in the Right Wing... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Friday 05/21/2010, 12:23pm
The Texas Freedom Network has been doing amazing work covering the battle over curriculum standards in Texas .. and nothing better explains just what is going on than this post from TFN today highlighting the prayer delivered by right-wing Texas State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar to open the Board's debate over what the next generation of Texas students will learn about separation of church and state: Even before the Texas State Board of Education took up its expected debate today over what students will learn about separation about church and state in their social studies... MORE >
Peter Montgomery, Thursday 04/29/2010, 12:17pm
  On Saturday, May 1, Religious Right leaders and public officials will gather at the steps below the Lincoln Memorial to beg God to forgive America for having elected wicked leaders like President Obama. If you can’t make it to the national mall on Saturday morning, you can watch live on God TV or via webcast thanks to the American Family Association.   The "May Day - A Cry to God for a Nation in Distress" event is the brainchild of Janet Porter, a Religious Right activist/conspiracy theory-promoting radio host, and member of presidential hopeful Mike... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Tuesday 04/06/2010, 1:12pm
David Barton of Wallbuilders likes to fancy himself an expert on the Founding Fathers, especially as it pertains to questions regarding their Christian faith and the fundamentally Christian nature of the nation they created. But Barton also considers himself an expert on the Constitution, which occasionally leads him make absurd claims based on ridiculous analysis, such as his recent argument that any member of Congress who supports working on the Sabbath is violating the Constitution and needs to be tossed out of office. But that is nothing compared to the argument he put forward yesterday... MORE >
Kyle Mantyla, Thursday 03/18/2010, 9:20am
Faith 2 Action's Janet Porter continues to move ahead with her organizing for the "May Day: a Cry to God for Our Nation in Distress" prayer rally at the Lincoln Memorial on May 1: Porter called on Christians to take part in a 40-day fast prior to the event. She said participants will give up something important to them in the days leading up to May Day. "We just want God to know we're serious about standing in the gap for America," she said. "We are calling the remnant to come and repent. It's a two-fold plan to not only pray but to proclaim what our founders... MORE >