The State Board of Education on Friday narrowly approved a resolution that instructs textbook publishers to counter a "pro-Islamic/anti-Christian bias" that proponents say is pervasive in world history books.
The resolution, which passed on a 7-6 vote, calls for a "balanced treatment of religious groups in textbooks" and cites examples of perceived bias in textbooks used before 2003.
Balance, however, appears to be in the eye of the beholder.
Board member Ken Mercer , R-San Antonio, said the objective of the resolution "should be that we want the world religions treated with accuracy and balance."
But board member Bob Craig , R-Lubbock, argued that the resolution, with its references to "gross pro-Islamic/anti-Christian distortions," failed to achieve that objective.
An alternative resolution offered by Craig carried the same message about equal treatment of different faiths, he said, "without attacking one religion over another."
"It is very clear to the publishers where we're headed and what we want," Craig said.
State Board of Education vote breakdown
For: David Bradley, R-Beaumont; Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands; Cynthia Dunbar, R-Richmond; Don McLeroy, R-Bryan; Terri Leo, R-Spring; Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas; and Ken Mercer, R-San Antonio.
Against: Geraldine Miller, R-Dallas; Pat Hardy, R-Weatherford; Lawrence Allen, D-Fresno; Mavis Knight, D-Dallas; Bob Craig, R-Lubbock; and Rick Agosto, D-San Antonio.
Did not vote: El Paso Democrat Rene Nuñez was at the meeting earlier but absent for the vote. Corpus Christi Democrat Mary Helen Berlanga was not at the meeting.
Mercer and six other members, however, sank that alternative measure and several other attempts to delay or scuttle the adoption of the resolution.
Questions about the accuracy of the evidence used to justify the resolution were initially rebuffed.
But an hour after approval, board members learned that a reference in the resolution to "Middle Easterners buy(ing) into the U.S. public school textbook oligopoly" was not accurate. They voted to remove the reference and then reapproved the revised measure on a 7-5 vote.
The practical effect of the resolution is unclear.
Social studies textbooks will probably not be adopted and bought until 2016 because of the state's budget crunch.
Also, the resolution is not binding and reflects the opinions of the board members — opinions that could change with time and elections.
"This is a cosmetic exercise," said board member Mavis Knight , D-Dallas.
But other board members say the resolution sends an important message to textbook publishers.
Board member Terri Leo , R-Spring, said Christianity has been denigrated in past textbooks, citing the evidence in the resolution, and said the problems continue in the current books.
But those problems cannot be addressed in the resolution because of a board rule that limits when a resolution can be considered regarding textbooks in use.
"We've seen it done in the past, as with the books cited in the resolution," Leo said. "What we're trying to do is prohibit and send a clear message to the publishers that it should not happen in the future."
Imam Islam Mossaad of the North Austin Muslim Community Center said the board resolution has generated a lot of heat and debate over recent weeks, but it is not representative of how Muslims here are treated by their Christian and Jewish neighbors.
"This is so far away from ... the vibe that I get," Mossaad said. "We have differences, but we're still neighbors."