Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Texas BOE Pushes NCBCPS Bible Course

This comes as no surprise. The Houston Chronicle reports that several members of the Texas BOE, including the incomparably clueless Terri Leo, have sent an email to school boards and school administrators encouraging them to use the blatantly unconstitutional NCBCPS curriculum for their state-mandated Bible classes.

Several state Board of Education members are encouraging public school districts to use a particular Bible curriculum that some experts predict will land them in court if they do.

“It’s absolutely jaw-dropping,” said Mark Chancey, a professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University, referring to the e-mail circulated by state Board of Education members Terri Leo, R-Spring, Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands, Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond, and Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas.

And you might notice that they leave out a key fact:

Local schools should decide which Bible curriculum to offer, they said in the e-mail to school administrators and school boards.

“We recognize, however, that the curriculum provided by the National Council On Bible Curriculum in Public Schools has been implemented successfully in numerous school districts within the state of Texas for years,” the e-mail said.

It’s been “implemented successfully.” Never mind that it got the Ector County school district sued and they were forced to sign a consent decree agreeing not to use the curriculum anymore because it became quite clear that they were going to lose the case. And never mind that the same curriculum was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge in Florida 10 years ago.

Coincidentally, the same thing happened in the Florida case that happened in the Odessa (Ector County) case and is now happening with the Texas BOE. Both school boards ignored not only the recommendations of the committees they formed but also the legal advice they got from their own attorneys and went for the NCBCPS curriculum anyway. Both school boards – and the Texas BOE – were told in advance that doing so would result in costly litigation that they would almost certainly lose. From the Florida ruling:

On December 16, 1996, School Board Attorney Steven Butler advised the Committee that the Bible History I curriculum had the “potential for litigation” because 1) the title of the course was biased; 2) the course appears to teach the Bible “as an inerrant document,” 3) the purpose of teaching the course appeared to be non-secular; and 4) the course teaches “a single Protestant perspective.” Mr. Butler also warned the Committee that the minority report increased the likelihood of litigation.

The School Board issued a directive to the Committee on December 17, 1996 to continue with its work. The School Board also authorized the hiring of an outside law firm to review the constitutionality of the proposed curriculum. The School Board requested a report by March, 1997, and postponed offering the class until Fall, 1997…

On May 7, 1997, the outside counsel of the School Board reported to Defendants on a review of the draft of the Bible History I. Melanie Gurley Keeney recommended extensive revision of the Bible History I curriculum, including the complete elimination of certain sections. Ms. Keeney warned that certain issues had the potential for overstepping permissible constitutional parameters….

The Committee continued to work on the Bible History II curriculum. Counsel for the School Board advised the deletion of certain topics and concepts, to which Committee members objected. The Committee voted to disband in light of the advice of counsel as to certain deletions in the Bible History II curriculum. Before disbanding, the Committee voted to recommend the complete adoption of the NCBCPS “New Testament” curriculum to the School Board.

In a letter of September 25, 1997, Ms. Keeney, outside counsel for the School Board, warned Defendant Whittaker that the NCBCPS curriculum contained segments which she concluded would be viewed as constitutionally impermissible.

Mr. Martin, counsel for the School Board, recommended the deletion of much of the NCBCPS “New Testament” curriculum from the Committee’s draft…

Ms. Keeney, outside counsel for the School Board, cautioned the School Board against adopting the NCBCPS curriculum on October 20, 1997.

The School Board convened on October 21, 1997 to consider adoption of a New Testament curriculum. Many speakers addressed the School Board. Public opinion remained sharply divided as to the “New Testament” curriculum. Defendant Harter advised the adoption of the hybrid staff curriculum combining the Committee’s unfinished work as revised by School Board attorneys and district staff. Defendant Gross also made a motion for the School Board to adopt the NCBCPS curriculum, which was seconded. At the conclusion of the meeting, the School Board voted 3 – 2 to adopt the NCBCPS “New Testament” curriculum, which does not include the modifications by the Board’s counsel.

The Odessa school board did the same thing. The committee they formed to make recommendations on the Bible curriculum recommended that they use the Bible Literacy Project curriculum but the school board wanted the NCBCPS curriculum instead. And they also ignored legal advice and adopted it anyway. These people never learn.