SCHOOL BOARD ELECTIONS: COUNTERING THE FUNDAMENTALISTS
by Frank Prahl
Within the past decade, Texas Governor. Mark White, with the
help of Ross Perot, replaced a fundamentalist dominated state
school board with one dominated by educators. Their first action
was to start putting evolution back into textbooks and discour-
raging creationism. We thought we had won the war -- or was it
just a battle?
With the Religious Right dominating the White House and the
GOP for the past twelve years and no accountability for church
tax-free revenues, organized religion has been able to turn the
media, and much public opinion, to their ideology. Creationism
has again been steadily regaining acceptance in our schools partly
because of our own apathy.
During our last school board election, a "Christian Values"
slate of candidates was running. Among their pledges was one to
put creationism back in science classes as a competing theory. I
couldn't just sit by and let them win because of voter apathy,
their greatest ally.
The first thing I did was to write the following letter to
the local newspaper:
Is the 'Christian Values' slate of Kerry Graham, Larry
Maxwell and Robert Andrews running for positions on a public
school board or Sunday school? The positions being taken by
this school board slate should frighten all who do not
support their extremist religious views. This slate has the
public endorsement of Harris County GOP Executive Committee
leader Dr. Steven Hotze, who is on record as wanting to
rebuild American government and society into a system
strictly based on biblical law (Houston Post, 12/27/92, A1,
'GOP's Hotze wants biblical law as basis for government').
To frighten you even more is the knowledge that this slate is
getting direction and support from such national organiza-
tions as Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition, Phillis
Schlafly's Eagle Forum, Don Wildmon's American Family
Association, Terry Randall's Operation Rescue, Tim LaHaye's
Creation Science Research Institute and the religious right
Citizens for Excellence in Education, to name a few, and you
still think this a local election? These organizations have
combined their efforts nationally to elect their people to
school boards and other minor offices throughout the country
to take advantage of voter apathy. Traditionally, school
board elections have very low voter turnout. Fundamentalist
churches are much better at turning out their people to vote
for their agenda than are general candidates and therefore
win more often than they lose. We must not allow PISD to
fall victim to this national effort.
To make matters worse, their religious agenda would bring a
number of lawsuits the district can ill afford. Even the
present, conservative U.S. Supreme Court still upholds the
three-part Lemon test and the agenda of this slate would
violate all three tests! The move to teach creationism as
science has been struck down by the courts time after time,
mostly recently in Louisiana and Arkansas. Orchestrated
prayer in schools have received the same fate, even more
This 'Christian Values' slate will only mean trouble for PISD
should they be elected. With all the other good candidates
running, we should be able to elect a board more interested
in education than religion. We cannot afford to turn the
school board over to this fringe group. Please vote.
Why did I write such a letter? First, to emphasize the
difference between public and parochial schools; Second, to raise
the awareness of the ultimate goals of these fringe candidates;
third, to show how well organized and financed the movement, by
these religion-backed groups, really is; fourth, exposing the
ultimate cost to the schools if these candidates win and fifth, to
show that even school board elections are important. I'm not
sure how effective the letter was, but 90% of the letters-to-the-
editor following publication of mine were favorable and the entire
slate lost by a two-to-one margin in a record voter turnout.
I also attended three of the four forums attended by these
candidates. In addition to asking a question about their
religious agenda, I gave considerable literature to their
opponents to help them argue their points. Several were very
grateful and admitted they knew little of the "Christian Values"
slate's ultimate agenda or backing.
Explaining the real meaning of some terms these candidates
used helped defuse the issue. "Parental involvement", a term much
touted by them, means that each parent should have the right to
review a book before it is used to teach their own child, lest it
suggest something not in agreement with their religious dogma.
Also, the courts have declared that the term "creationist" implied
a creator, and was thus a religious concept. To get around that,
Creationist lawyer Wendell Bird invented the euphemism "abrupt
appearance theory" and another group, associated with the
Texas-based Foundation for Thought and Ethics has come up with
"intelligent design theory." The arguments haven't changed, only
What can we do, either collectively or individually, to slow
or reverse this trend? First, you can write lots of letters to
editors of all papers. Don't forget the small local papers. They
are read and very easy to get published in. They also accept
longer letters. The shorter the letter, though, the better chance
you have of getting your letter published in the larger papers.
Creationism is just the tip of the iceberg in the religious
right agep‰Ž@ĎĎ€National Coalition for Public Education and Religious Liberty,
National Education Association, and Unitarian-Universalist
Humanist Leader Helps Defeat the Klan
Tom Malone, AHA regional coordinator for the southeastern
states and president of the AHA's Georgia chapter, recently won in
a class action suit against the Ku Klux Klan. He, and each of his
fellow litigants, collected $1,300 apiece for being victims of a
stone throwing attack on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Brotherhood
March held in Forsyth Country, Georgia. This settlement, secured
by the Southern Poverty Law Center, succeeded in putting one of
the largest southern klan organizations out of business. (In an
ironic twist, government officials closing down Klan headquarters
donated the furniture to a local office of the NAACP.) Clearly,
Humanists can help make a difference!
New Seminar Program Launched
As directed by President Michael Werner, the AHA is now
launching a new seminar program. There will be traveling lectures
designed to increase public knowledge of Humanism and show
Humanists themselves how to apply the philosophy in their
communities and in their personal lives. Professors and other
specialists are being organized. The first in the series will be
on the history of Freethought and Humanism. Watch this bulletin
for details on a seminar near you!
Humanistic Judaism Conference
The Society for Humanistic Judaism Annual Conference and
Youth Conclave will be held April 21-24 in Stanford, Connecticut.
For more details write to Miriam Jerris, Society for Humanistic
Judaism, 28611 West 12 Mile Road, Farmington Hills, MI 48334 or
phone (313) 478-7610.
Lavanam to Tour USA Again
At the end of last year and the beginning of this, Lavanam
from the Atheist Centre in Vijayawada, India, toured the United
States and Canada, visiting Humanist chapters and freethought
societies from coast to coast. Well, Lavanam will be back in the
country starting in May of this year and has expressed the desire
to visit with chapters of the American Humanist Association (AHA)
throughout the month of June. If your chapter is interested in
featuring him as a speaker on Humanism in India or on how to make
the Humanist philosophy more meaningful for ordinary people,
please contact the AHA national office immediately. Ellen
Senchoway is in charge of all arrangements.
Carl Sagan to Address CSICOP Conference
Astronomer Carl Sagan will give the keynote address at the
1994 conference of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation
of Claims of the Paranormal to be held at the Doubletree Suites
Hotel in Seattle, WA, June 24-26. There will be sessions on how
worldviews are formed, how we fool ourselves, the reliability of
memory, conspiracy theories, near-death experiences, junk science
in the courtroom, and UFOs.
Registration is $135 per person (full-time students with ID,
$25). The four optional meals total $80 per person more. Lodging
at the Doubletree Suites Hotel (which includes complimentary full
breakfast buffet) is $79 per night, single or double. Lodging at
the Doubletree Inn across the street is $65 per night, single or
double. Phone (206) 575-8220 for either hotel.
For further information, contact Mary Rose Hays, CSICOP, P.O.
Box 703, Buffalo, NY 14226 -- (716) 636-1425, FAX (716) 636-1733.
Meetings in Canada
The International Humanist and Ethical Union will hold its
board meeting in Toronto, Ontario, on the mornings of July 6 and
7. The location is the Chestnut Park Hotel in downtown Toronto.
Also on July 7, and at the same hotel, the Humanist
Association of Canada will hold its Annual General Meeting from
2:00 to 5:00 PM. This will be followed by the Board Meeting of
the Bertrand Russell Society, lasting from 5:30 to 7:30 PM. Then
there will be
AMHERST NY 14226-7188
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