By David Waters
Friday’s meeting of the Texas Board of Education, charged with revising the state’s social studies curriculum, began with a Christian prayer on behalf of “a Christian land governed by Christian principles,” a prayer made “in the name of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
“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,” board member Cynthia Dunbar said.
“I believe the entire Bill of Rights came into being because of the knowledge our forefathers had of the Bible and their belief in it… “I like to believe that we are living today in the spirit of the Christian religion and as long as we do so no great harm can come to our country.”
The board is expected today to approve final revisions in the statewide curriculum, amending textbook standards to correct what conservative board members such as Dunbar view as hostility toward Christianity and traditional values.
And of course they are doing this by being as hostile as possible toward non-Christian and yet entirely American values.
Dunbar, a graduate of Pat Robertson’s Regent University Law School, had made all of her personal beliefs clear, including her belief (inaccurate as it might be) that the Founding Fathers didn’t intend to separate church and state, but rather did intend to promote religion.
The board’s evangelical Christian majority has approved a number of her revisions, which included cutting Thomas Jefferson (author of the Declaration of Independence and promoter of the phrase “wall of separation between church and state”), and replacing him with religious figures such as St.Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin. (Friday, the board agreed without objection to return Jefferson to the curriculum. But the board struck James Madison 8-7.)
Dunbar, of course, is entitled to her beliefs and to preach them publicly. No doubt she believes that by foisting her conservative evangelical beliefs on the state’s public schools, she is defiantly and courageously standing up for her convictions and defending her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
But as a member of a government-appointed board charged with setting learning standards for all Texas school children — Christians and non-Christians alike — Dunbar is disrespecting the Constitution, the founders very clear intent to keep government and religion separate, and ultimately all people of faith (including Jesus) who believe the government has no business trying to be the church.
When government bodies feel entitled to promote sectarian prayers like Dunbar’s, religious freedom in America doesn’t have a prayer.
(Follow the Texas Freedom Network’s live-blogging of the meeting.)
UPDATE: The board agreed to reinstate Oscar Romero to the world history standards. That reverses the board’s March vote to remove the martyred Salvadoran Catholic bishop in March because conservative evangelical board members said they didn’t know who he was.
UPDATE: The board approved 11-3 a lengthy rewrite of the section of the curriculum dealing with church-state separation. The standard will read: “Examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America and guaranteed it free exercise by saying that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, and compare and contrast this to the phrase ‘separation of church and state’.”
UPDATE: Late Friday afternoon, the board voted 9-5 to adopt the high school social studies standards. All Republicans voted yes (except one who was absent), and all Democrats voted no.