Partisan politics and a church/state punch-up in Texas

March 12, 2010

Partisan politics and America’s culture wars have been on full display again in Austin at the Texas State Board of Education. According to a Friday report in  The Dallas Morning News, Republicans on the board defeated a Democratic-backed proposal on Thursday to would have required that Texas students be taught the reason behind a prohibition of a state religion in the Bill of Rights. You can see the report here by The Dallas Morning News which has done some fine stuff on this and related subjects.

The seven social conservatives on the panel were joined by three moderate Republicans in rejecting the proposal, which was backed by all five Democrats on the board.


Former U. S. president George W. Bush (C) speaks at a rededication of the National Archives in Washington, September 17, 2003/Larry Downing

The so-called “Establishment Clause” in the U.S. Bill of Rights  — which states that: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” — has become one of the many flashpoints in the country’s culture wars which outsiders often find bewildering. U.S. liberals and secular humanists have said this is the basis for America’s separation of church and state; for many religious conservatives, this is a dangerous fiction that has been advanced by activists judges. Battles over it have taken many shapes and have included those over school prayer.

The reaction of U.S. liberals and religious conservatives to such things, I have found, is as predictable as the sunrise and sunset. Sure enough, I got an e-mail Friday from the (liberal leaning and non-partisan) Texas Freedom Network with the following press release. It said among other things that:

The board rejected a proposed standard requiring students to ‘examine the reasons the Founding Fathers protected religious freedom in America by barring government from promoting or disfavoring any particular religion over all others.’ That means the board opposes teaching students about the most fundamental constitutional protection for religious freedom in America. ”

The board was expected to approve the first draft of its social studies standards on Friday and a final vote is slated for May. The standards adopted will remain in place for a decade and other states often follow the Austin lead because national textbook publishers seek to emulate them, given the size of the Texas market.

This is why commentators say that the partisan battles being waged here over topics that outsiders may find strange — the world’s richest country is concerned about what?! — really matter. They may set the tone  for what millions of American students learn on subjects ranging from evolution to the history of U.S. foreign policy. It really is, in some ways, a battle for the country’s soul.


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separation of church and state is not a liberal position. It is deeply conservative in that in recognizes that a country with many religions practiced at once cannot take side.

The Constitution does not stop someone praying in private or in agreeable groups. It does not prevent someone from leading a pious or religious life. it does not stop them form leading a virtuous life, But it does not allow one religion from dominating all the others.

Posted by paintcan | Report as abusive

The last line should have been written …. does not allow one religion to dominate all the others. I also left on the “s” in “sides”.

It’s been a long time since grammar school.

And I should add. The constitution doesn’t allow the state to tax in the name of a religion. I don’t know why more people aren’t sensitive to that issue. Tax for almost any purpose is enough to start a revolution. But no one is interested in this issue at all, I suppose. Too academic?

The hot topic is priests having sex. Everybody seems to want them – not want them – to have at it. Even the “faithful” seem to like the scandals more.

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