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Religious Right Groups Join Forces to Select Texas Textbooks
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Religious Right Groups Join Forces to Select Texas Textbooks

Americans United activists in Texas are battling a coalition of Religious Right groups that has formed to pore over potential social studies textbooks with the aim of forcing the state to reject those that don't promote right-wing views. Textbook battles have been a perennial feature of public education in Texas. In recent years, ultra-conservative critics have forced a number of changes in science books, watering down or removing entirely references to global warming, for example. This year, social studies textbooks are in the crosshairs. Led by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a right-wing, pro-voucher organization, a number of Religious Right pressure groups have banded together to examine the books under consideration. They have already criticized several for allegedly slighting Christianity or promoting socialism. Republicans dominate the Texas State Board of Education--10 out of its 15 members belong to the GOP, and the Religious Right is able to exert great pressure on the body. When pressuring the board does not work, Religious Right groups simply take their complaints directly to the textbook publishing companies. Texas purchases millions of dollars worth of textbooks every year, making the market too attractive for most publishers to pass up. Religious Right groups not only get a hearing from the publishers, their demands are often accepted. Because Texas buys so many textbooks, the changes Religious Right activists make in books inevitably affect children in other parts of the country. Rather than produce separate editions, many textbook publishers simply market the same texts to other states. In 1995, legislators in Texas sought to defuse the controversy by passing a law restricting the power of the State Board of Education to reject textbooks. The law states in part that books may be rejected only for containing factual errors. But the measure has failed to stop pressure from Religious Right groups, who now simply insist that passages not to their liking are equivalent to factual errors. Most recently, Religious Right groups took aim at a history book titled Out of Many: A History of the American People, published by Prentice Hall. The groups attacked the book mainly for passages that discussed prostitution in the Old West, Margaret Sanger's early birth control crusade and the struggle for gay rights. Out of Many is a highly regarded textbook that has won high praise. One reviewer, Henry E. Stamm of Dartmouth College wrote, "Students generally give grudging praise to the work; the special care taken with women, African Americans, and Native Americans seems especially effective. Students often report that they enjoyed the 'stories' that begin each chapter. In essence, many students get 'hooked' by the narrative, which is high acclaim indeed for a history survey text!" Texas law mandates that textbooks emphasize democracy, patriotism and the free-enterprise system, language that the Religious Right also exploits to reject any text that uses a "warts and all" approach to history. "I don't mean that we should sweep things under the rug, but that children should see the hope and the good things about America," Peggy Venable of the Texas Chapter of Citizens for a Sound Economy, one of the groups scrutinizing the textbooks, told The New York Times. But critics of the Religious Right say censorship is exactly what the groups want--or, in other cases, a rewriting of history. Some Religious Right organizations have complained, for example, that the history textbooks fail to discuss the idea that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, an assertion that mainstream historians say is at odds with the evidence. Advocates of church-state separation are fighting back. In August, Charlotte Coffelt, a member of Americans United's Board of Trustees and Houston resident, delivered testimony before the State Board of Education, refuting charges by the right-wing coalition. "As you know, some of our fellow citizens promote their belief that our nation's founders intended for the U.S.A. to be a 'Christian nation,'" Coffelt told the board. "Many of our nation's founders came to our shores to escape religious persecution within their native countries. But America has become the most religiously diverse nation in the world, with citizens professing at least 2,000 varieties of belief systems. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was created to protect religious diversity and tolerance among peoples." Continued Coffelt, "I challenge you to bring forth a few of Texas' constitutional authorities who can provide a true scholar's interpretation of the First Amendment and how important it is that it be accurately represented in school-children's textbooks."

10/01/2002
A Textbook Case: Preserve our future from the one-world alarmists
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Press Release

A Textbook Case: Preserve our future from the one-world alarmists

A recent Houston Chronicle opinion piece “Recapture Texas’ future from zealots, know-nothings” by Brian Leiter referred to individuals whose views he does not accept as zealots, know-nothings, extremists, ignoramuses, medieval, simple-minded, special interest, right wing, and other terms that are not appropriate for a productive discourse on public policy issues. It is disappointing to see that a professor of philosophy at an esteemed public university law school would stoop to such rhetoric. My fourteen year-old daughter knows better than to resort to name-calling to make her point.

09/28/2002
CSE Calls on Senate Judiciary Committee to Approve
Miguel Estrada for Full Senate Vote
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Press Release

CSE Calls on Senate Judiciary Committee to Approve<br> Miguel Estrada for Full Senate Vote

Today, Citizens for a Sound Economy called on the Senate Judiciary Committee to allow for a full Senate vote on Miguel Estrada, nominee for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Miguel Estrada is a much respected and qualified nominee who would well serve the federal judiciary and the American people. Unfortunately, stonewalling by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and highly polemic rhetoric by committee members and liberal interest groups threaten to derail Mr. Estrada’s nomination. CSE President and CEO Paul Beckner had these comments:

09/26/2002
Keyvote on the "HEALTH Act of 2002"
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Press Release

Keyvote on the "HEALTH Act of 2002"

On behalf of the nearly 300,000 members of Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), I urge you to vote YES on H.R. 4600, the “HEALTH Act of 2002.” Litigation is taking a heavy toll on the health care in America, both in terms of patient care and the costs that lawsuits impose on the system. Lawsuits have limited the availability of health care and have led many doctors to engage in “defensive medicine,” where doctors require a battery of tests and consultations simply to establish the basis of a defense in the case of a lawsuit. Not surprisingly, the additional procedures increase the costs of health care in America, as do rising insurance premiums, which lead to higher fees for health care services. A tort system is necessary for resolving accidental harms, but in the current tort system in the United States, awards are too arbitrary and uncertain to establish the correct incentives for avoiding harmful activities. HR 4600 would help to eliminate frivolous lawsuits while insuring that real victims are compensated for their losses.

09/25/2002
Throw Precaution to the Wind—Please!
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Press Release

Throw Precaution to the Wind—Please!

This week, the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank begin in Washington, D.C. As usual, the meetings promise to bring thousands of protesters to the nation’s capital. While identifying their underlying message is as difficult as reading tea leaves, one of the perennial themes is the global environment. Global warming, deforestation, endangered species, and a slew of other environmental panics fuel discussions of world calamity, despite a growing body of scientific evidence that suggests, by and large, significant progress has been on many environmental problems. Rather than incorporate these findings, many environmentalists simply abandon science altogether.

09/25/2002
Serious Problems and the Politicians Who Ignore Them
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Press Release

Serious Problems and the Politicians Who Ignore Them

Since the height of the Internet bubble, the U.S. telecommunications sector has shed $2 trillion in market capitalization, 500,000 jobs, and nearly 70 companies. Many telecom firms that have survived will not for long, as the typical company faces annual interest payments equal to its revenue and investors unwilling to provide another dime.

09/25/2002
Tom Daschle’s Spectacular Budget Disappearing Act!
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Press Release

Tom Daschle’s Spectacular Budget Disappearing Act!

It’s not the Greatest Show on Earth, but the federal budget is definitely the most expensive circus in the world. All the more so this year, thanks to some nifty new tricks from ringleader Sen. Tom Daschle (D - S.D.). Every year, Congress is required to pass an overall plan for U.S. government spending, known as a budget resolution. The budget was due this year on April 15, 2002, and to meet this deadline, President Bush offered his budget plan last February. And the House of Representatives passed its budget in March.

09/25/2002
Response to Leiter's Op-Ed Regarding Textbooks
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Press Release

Response to Leiter's Op-Ed Regarding Textbooks

Leiter's letter lacked truth. The one environmental science textbook removed from the SBOE "approved" list last year was of such poor educational quality that the purchase of it would have equated to robbery of the taxpayers.

09/24/2002
Bring in the Prognosticators
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Press Release

Bring in the Prognosticators

This Week- The House is considering several pieces of legislation this week. They begin with H.R. 4691, the “Abortion Non-Discrimination Act of 2002,” and then will turn to a resolution known as a ‘CR.’ Short for “continuing resolution,’ a CR provides government funding during the interim of the fiscal year and the signing into law of the appropriations bills. It is required since the fiscal year officially ends on October 1st. Near the end of the week they expect to take up a very important piece of legislation limiting medical malpractice claims. This legislation, H.R. 4600, would address a growing crisis in our nation. Due to rampant lawsuite and aggressive trial lawyers medical malpractice insurance has skyrocketed leaving many communities without physician care. This bill would impose some limited legal reform bringing sanity back into the medical liability system. Like the movie Groundhog Day the Senate will take up the interior appropriations bill at the beginning of the week with homeland security being considered on a dual track. This is the fourth week for the interior appropriations bill which might actually be a new record for Senatorial logjams. The Senate also hopes to take up a continuing resolution since the fiscal year ends early next week.

09/24/2002
Al Moves (Further) Left
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Press Release

Al Moves (Further) Left

The former vice president moved out in front of his potential Democratic rivals yesterday by staking out a decidedly anti-Bush position on Iraq. While the other contenders for the Democratic nomination have either totally supported President Bush or given wishy-washy tepid support, Al Gore took a bold step. In a speech that would have made German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder proud, Gore staked out a position as the leading critic of President Bush’s foreign policy.

09/24/2002

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