This Week in God

THIS WEEK IN GOD…. First up from the God Machine this week is the latest adventures of the reactionary right-wing activists on Texas’ Board of Education.

Board members became the subject of national ridicule in recent months, as it worked on re-writing the state’s social studies curriculum — without guidance from historians, sociologists, educators, or economists. The result is a curriculum that would require students to learn about “the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s,” lessons on “the violent philosophy of the Black Panthers,” a version of history that celebrates Joe McCarthy and downplays Thomas Jefferson, and a requirement that students explore alternatives to Social Security and Medicare.

This week, however, board members turned their attention to religion.

The board will consider a resolution next week that would warn publishers not to push a pro-Islamic, anti-Christian viewpoint in world history textbooks.

Members of the board’s social conservative bloc asked for the resolution after an unsuccessful candidate for a board seat called on the panel to head off any bias against Christians in new social studies books. Some contend that “Middle Easterners” are increasingly buying into companies that publish textbooks.

A preliminary draft of the resolution states that “diverse reviewers have repeatedly documented gross pro-Islamic, anti-Christian distortions in social studies texts” across the U.S. and that past social studies textbooks in Texas also have been “tainted” with pro-Islamic, anti-Christian views.

Apparently, the strange people on the state board were bothered by world history books — that aren’t used in Texas anyway — that highlight the massacre of Muslims by Christian Crusaders early in the last millennium, without enough emphasis of Muslim massacres of Christians in Jerusalem there in 1244 and at Antioch in 1268.

Of course, since Texas currently uses textbooks that offer a balanced treatment of the world’s religions, there’s no real point to the board’s latest crusade. “This is another example of board members putting politics ahead of just educating our kids,” said Kathy Miller of the Texas Freedom Network. “Once again, without consulting any real experts, the board’s politicians are manufacturing a bogus controversy.”
Also from the God Machine this week:

* Pope Benedict XVI is in the midst of a historic four-day state visit to Britain, where officials have arrested six men believed to be part of a plot against the Roman Catholic leader. Details are scarce, but those in custody are being detained under Britain’s Terrorism Act.

* Speaking of the Roman Catholic Church, the church in Belgium has been rocked by its role in the sexual abuse of children. Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard this week “acknowledged the scale of the scandal that had engulfed the country over sexual abuse by priests and promised to do more for the victims, but he offered few short-term solutions and said little of substance about further pursuing the abusers.” A lawyer representing church victims called the response “scandalous.” (thanks to reader D.J. for the tip)

* The French Senate voted 246 to 1 this week to ban burqa-style Islamic veils in public. The AP noted, however, that “the leaders of both parliamentary houses said they had asked a special council to first ensure the measure passes constitutional muster amid concerns its tramples on religious freedoms.”

* And as deranged media personality Glenn Beck positions himself as the head of some kind of religious/cultural/political movement, a poll conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute and Religion News Service found that “fewer than one in five Americans (17 percent) believe Beck is the right person to helm a religious movement.” Imagine that.