July 2, 1998
THE CHRISTIAN RIGHT HAS SET ITS SIGHTS
ON THE TEXAS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION.
After four years, the smear campaign against Mary Knott Perkins is still
the talk of East Texas. There is a wince in her voice as she tells the
story of how she lost her seat on the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE)
to Donna Ballard, a Christian conservative firebrand.
"I'm a very traditional person," says Perkins, a Democrat and grandmother
of seven. "I had never even been called a liberal. I'm a Methodist. But I
was called an atheist and a feminist. I was accused of advocating
masturbation for five year olds. My good name was sullied all over my
district. Anybody going into politics today is going to face it."
Four years later, a group of conservative Christian Republicans who
a bloc is poised to achieve an eight-to-seven majority on the Texas SBOE
after elections this November. If they win, the SBOE will be the most
significant elected body over which the Christian right has ever gained
In the July 26 issue of IN THESE TIMES, Frederick Clarkson details the
of the Christian right in Texas and explains what a November victory might
mean for the future of public education.
Based on the the public proclamations and records of Christian right
members and candidates, Clarkson concludes, if they secure a majority on
the SBOE, they can be expected to try to expand the charter school program,
create a state-financed voucher program, implement school prayer, display
the Ten Commandments in school buildings, instruct staff to teach
creationism, and end education about sexuality and AIDS. They would also
likely withdraw from the federal Goals 2000 Program--a program originally
proposed by President George Bush, to raise academic standards. The
program, which began in 1994, is scheduled to provide Texas schools with
$100 million by 1999.
The outcome and conduct of the campaign itself may alter politics in
state and the nation well into the next century.
Frederick Clarkson is a journalist and author whose work on the religious
right has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines over the past 15
years. Last fall, he published a nationally syndicated op-ed column on the
Promise Keepers that appeared in a number of Texas newspapers, including
the Houston Chronicle and the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. He is the author,
most recently, of Eternal Hostility: The Struggle between Theocracy and
Democracy (Common Courage Press, 1997)
In These Times is a Chicago-based biweekly magazine of news and
For more than 20 years, In These Times has covered news, politics and
culture from a progressive viewpoint with a commitment to provide readers
with an in-depth, responsible analysis of the news.
For more information, please contact:
Frederick Clarkson (413) 586-4043
In These Times
2040 N. Milwaukee Avenue
Chicago, IL 06047
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