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Texas Board of Education Celebrates Constitution Day by Promoting Creationism, Ignoring the Constitution

Carrie Ellen Sager,
PFRB Legal Fellow,
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September 17, 2013

Today, on Constitution Day, we commemorate the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution in 1787. The Texas State Board of Education apparently plans to celebrate the occasion by emulating the conditions of the original signing and pretending that the First Amendment does not exist (the First Amendment was not formally adopted until December 15, 1791). The Board is holding public hearings today on its upcoming science textbook adoption, and the creationists on the board have set their sights on the state’s list of approved biology textbooks.

Textbooks are reviewed prior to adoption by citizen committees appointed by the Board. Ideally, citizen reviewers should have some sort of relevant expertise: They should be teachers or scientists, for example. Instead, the Board assigned these important positions to a number of anti-science creationism proponents, whose “review” of the textbooks consisted of complaining that they do not include enough creationism. One reviewer insisted that “‘creation science’ based on Biblical principles should be incorporated into every biology book that is up for adoption.” Others trotted out tired anti-evolution arguments that have been thoroughly refuted.

As explained in written testimony submitted today by the ACLU and ACLU of Texas, efforts to inject religious beliefs regarding evolution and the origin of life into public school science curricula are constitutionally impermissible no matter what form they may take. More than 20,000 ACLU supporters expressed their agreement by signing a petition that urges the Board to approve textbooks that accurately and comprehensively cover evolution. We delivered the petition today with our written testimony.

Unfortunately, textbook adoption in Texas is always a time of conflict. Science books are attacked for their coverage of evolution and climate change, health textbooks are attacked for their coverage of contraception and sexuality, and social studies textbooks are attacked for…pretty much everything, really.

Texas’ textbooks are particularly important because of the state’s size. Texas is the second-largest market in the country, which creates a strong incentive for publishers to accede to the demands of the Texas Board of Education. The books that are written for Texas are sold to school districts throughout the country.

Students in Texas and across the country should have the best science education possible. That starts with science textbooks that are accurate and free from the influence of religious doctrine. On Constitution Day, of all days, the Texas Board of Education should respect the First Amendment rights of students and parents by adopting textbooks based on science, not ideology.

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