Religiofascism … particularly Christian religiofascism, or Christofascism … is alive and well in the Lone Star state. The Texas Board of Education recently reviewed curriculum guidelines, with an eye toward turning public school social-studies classrooms into proselytization venues. The New York Times Magazine provides a lengthy explanation of the process and what lay behind it: (WebCite cached article):

Following the appeals from the public, the members of what is the most influential state board of education in the country, and one of the most politically conservative, submitted their own proposed changes to the new social-studies curriculum guidelines, whose adoption was the subject of all the attention — guidelines that will affect students around the country, from kindergarten to 12th grade, for the next 10 years. Gail Lowe — who publishes a twice-a-week newspaper when she is not grappling with divisive education issues — is the official chairwoman, but the meeting was dominated by another member. Don McLeroy, a small, vigorous man with a shiny pate and bristling mustache, proposed amendment after amendment on social issues to the document that teams of professional educators had drawn up over 12 months, in what would have to be described as a single-handed display of archconservative political strong-arming. …

The cultural roots of the Texas showdown may be said to date to the late 1980s, when, in the wake of his failed presidential effort, the Rev. Pat Robertson founded the Christian Coalition partly on the logic that conservative Christians should focus their energies at the grass-roots level. One strategy was to put candidates forward for state and local school-board elections — Robertson’s protégé, Ralph Reed, once said, “I would rather have a thousand school-board members than one president and no school-board members” — and Texas was a beachhead. Since the election of two Christian conservatives in 2006, there are now seven on the Texas state board who are quite open about the fact that they vote in concert to advance a Christian agenda. “They do vote as a bloc,” Pat Hardy, a board member who considers herself a conservative Republican but who stands apart from the Christian faction, told me. “They work consciously to pull one more vote in with them on an issue so they’ll have a majority.” …

These folks quite frankly admit their agenda, which is to fashion a specifically Christian government, some time in the future, by turning today’s children into tomorrow’s militant political soldiers for Jesus:

The Christian “truth” about America’s founding has long been taught in Christian schools, but not beyond. Recently, however — perhaps out of ire at what they see as an aggressive, secular, liberal agenda in Washington and perhaps also because they sense an opening in the battle, a sudden weakness in the lines of the secularists — some activists decided that the time was right to try to reshape the history that children in public schools study. Succeeding at this would help them toward their ultimate goal of reshaping American society. As Cynthia Dunbar, another Christian activist on the Texas board, put it, “The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of the government in the next.”

A lot of their reasoning is predicated on faulty logic, of course:

For McLeroy, separation of church and state is a myth perpetrated by secular liberals. “There are two basic facts about man,” he said. “He was created in the image of God, and he is fallen. You can’t appreciate the founding of our country without realizing that the founders understood that. For our kids to not know our history, that could kill a society. That’s why to me this is a huge thing.”

It’s also “a huge thing” to me, too. The truth about the Founders is that they did, in fact, want religion and state to be severed from one another. The author of the First Amendment, James Madison, said so, rather clearly and unambiguously. Don’t just take my word for that … read it for yourself, from his own pen (WebCite cached version).

The Christofascists’ reasoning is also based on more than a little paranoia and conspiratorial thinking:

The idea behind standing up to experts is that the scientific establishment has been withholding information from the public that would show flaws in the theory of evolution and that it is guilty of what McLeroy called an “intentional neglect of other scientific possibilities.” Similarly, the Christian bloc’s notion this year to bring Christianity into the coverage of American history is not, from their perspective, revisionism but rather an uncovering of truths that have been suppressed. “I don’t know that what we’re doing is redefining the role of religion in America,” says Gail Lowe, who became chairwoman of the board after McLeroy was ousted and who is one of the seven conservative Christians. “Many of us recognize that Judeo-Christian principles were the basis of our country and that many of our founding documents had a basis in Scripture. As we try to promote a better understanding of the Constitution, federalism, the separation of the branches of government, the basic rights guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, I think it will become evident to students that the founders had a religious motivation.”

There is much more to this New York Times Magazine article, which includes tracking out the history of the notion of “separation of church and state.” Sadly, the article leaves out the contribution of Roger Williams, Baptist minister and founder of the Rhode Island colony, which was established with religious freedom as its core. The Founding Fathers a century after him, certainly knew about him and had been influenced by his ideas. The Times adopts and relays the inaccurate claim that the phrase “separation of church and state” originated in Thomas Jefferson’s famous letter to the Danbury Baptists. The truth is that Williams had come up with the phrase over a century before Jefferson. One can debate whether or not Jefferson knew about it particular, but there’s no doubt he knew about Williams’s ideas and career.

In spite of this and other flaws, though, I invite you all to read the Times Magazine article in full. It does accurately relate the duplicity, dishonesty, and the subtle manipulation of the Christofascists in Texas who are trying to raise a new generation of soldiers for Jesus who will — they hope — establish a new Christian theocracy in the United States.

P.S. I contributed an article to Freethoughtpedia some time ago, which goes over the pros and cons of the issue of whether or not the U.S. was founded as “a Christian nation.” Please have a look.

Hat tip: Skeptics & Heretics forum on Delphi Forums.

Update: Religion Dispatches explores in greater detail the relationship between this particular movement and the larger national “intelligent design” movement.

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