Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or unless you’ve restricted your news intake to merely what the so-called “Liberal Media” offers, you probably have heard about the education kerfluffle that is currently going on in Texas.
Christine Castillo, the now former Texas Education Agency’s director of science, was fired for broadcast emailing a “FYI” email about an upcoming talk in Austin:
…on Nov. 2 by Barbara Forrest, a professor of philosophy at Southeastern Louisiana University, a co-author of “Inside Creationism’s Trojan Horse” and an expert witness in the landmark 2005 case that ruled against the teaching of intelligent design in the Dover, Pa., schools.
(A PDF formatted position paper on Intelligent Design written by Dr. Forrest can be read here.)
Ms. Castillo has sent out many “FYI” emails over the years for various other functions and events for which she was NOT fired. But now that the Texas Education Agency seems to have decided to follow the Creationist “Wedge Strategy“, apparently Ms. Castillo became a thorn to be removed.
Other bloggers, more famous than I, have declared Texas to be “Doomed” based on it’s so-called “neutral” position on science vs. pseudoscience. And I have to say, I’m pretty close to agreeing that Texas has become a fundamentalist state. I’ve seen first hand the warped thinking that fundamentalism has brought to a couple of my Texan friends. I’m almost to the point of writing most of the state off as an extra-large version of the Westboro Baptist Church.
The only thing preventing me from doing so are enclaves of sanity like Austin Texas, where the intolerant nutballery is kept to a minimum. Or other friends in Texas, who are actually quite sane when it comes to science.
I try to keep in mind that the great Molly Ivins made Texas her lifelong home, that Ann Richards was born and died a Texan…
And now I have one more small hope for Texas when I see writing like this from Rick Casey in the Houston Chronicle:
Promoters of creationism and intelligent design sometimes suggest that the biblical account deserves a special place in our schools (as opposed to, say, Hindu or Hopi creation stories) because the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation.
Here are some historical incidents that prove that we were, indeed, founded as a Christian nation:
•In the early 17th century, Sam Maverick, an English immigrant to Boston and an ancestor of the famous Texas Mavericks, was jailed for repeatedly missing church.
•About the same time, Baptist preacher Roger Williams came to Massachusetts to escape religious persecution in England. After being quoted as saying local Puritan authorities “cannot without a spiritual rape force the consciences of all to one worship,” he was secretly warned by Gov. John Winthrop that he was in peril.
He fled to live with a group of Native Americans, then purchased what is now Rhode Island from them, setting it up as a colony that honored religious freedom.
•In 1844, a Jesuit priest in Maine advised Catholic families to go to court to block a school board order that required their children to read the Protestant King James version of the Bible in school. The priest was grabbed by a mob while hearing confessions on a Saturday evening, stripped of his clothes, tarred and feathered.
•In 1859, 11-year-old Tom Wall refused to recite the Protestant version of the Ten Commandments in his Boston public school. After consulting with his principal, Tom’s teacher hit the boy across the knuckles with a 3-foot rattan stick.
The boy again refused. The punishment was repeated. The boy still refused. After half an hour of the painful punishment, he relented despite fearing that he was betraying his God. His father filed assault charges and went to court to challenge the reading requirement. He lost.
•In 1869, the Cincinnati school board voted 22-15 to honor the request of Catholic parents to end the reading of the Bible in school. Protestant parents filed suit.
A three-judge panel ruled 2-1 for the Protestants, saying the reading of the Bible was necessary for good government.
The doctrine of separation of church and state is not found in the Constitution. It evolved through the courts and through public consensus based on painful experience.
It was not a sop to Jews or Muslims or ACLU atheists. It was developed to keep some Christians from ruling the consciences of other Christians, just as for centuries they had attempted to do in Europe.
Its logic was most forcefully stated by the Christian judges of the Ohio Supreme Court, who overturned the above ruling with these words:
“When Christianity asks the aid of government beyond mere impartial protection, it denies itself. Its laws are divine and not human. Its essential interests lie beyond the reach and range of human governments. United with government, religion never rises above the merest superstition; united with religion, government never rises above the merest despotism; and all history shows us that the more widely and completely they are separated, the better it is for both.”
Maybe there is hope yet for Texas. I sure hope so.