The State Board of Education today instructed publishers to curtail positive coverage of Islam and include more favorable treatment of Christianity in future world history textbooks.
Social conservatives on the board joined to pass a resolution saying that pro-Islamic, anti-Christian bias will not be tolerated in new social studies books, which are now scheduled for approval in two years. The resolution, adopoted on a 7-6 vote, said those future textbooks must devote more coverage to Christianity and other non-Muslim faiths.
The resolution said increased investment by "Middle Easterners" in the textbook publishing industry could encourage biased treatment of religion in the texts used in Texas schools. An attachment to the resolution cited a past investment by the Dubai royal family in a major U.S. textbook publisher.
Two Democratic board members were absent.
"This resolution will ensure upfront that potential biases are taken care of before these books reach the board," said Chairwoman Gail Lowe, R-Lampasas, who supported the resolution.
She noted that the resolution is not legally binding on publishers, but does state the will of board members to have more balanced social studies books.
Opponents, who tried to derail the resolution with a series of parliamentary maneuvers, called the proposal a waste of time that will further undermine the reputation of the board.
"This makes us look cuckoo. It's crazy," said board member Rick Agosto, D-San Antonio. "We are allowing ourselves to be distracted by this narrow-minded resolution, which is itself biased. We should have taken the higher ground on this."
Board member Lawrence Allen, D-Houston, who practices Islam, called the language in the resolution "offensive." He said supporters of the resolution were making accusations about pro-Muslim bias without any proof.
"These are baseless accusations, and this resolution is unfair," he said.
But Terri Leo, R-Spring, said the measure was necessary to send a "clear message" to publishers that past bias against Christianity and other religions "should not happen in the future."
While some books have credited Islam for treating women better than other religions, Leo said, there have been instances of Muslim woman getting fingers chopped off for using fingernail polish and being threatened with violence for not wear burkas in public.
The resolution states that "diverse reviewers have repeatedly documented gross pro-Islamic, anti-Christian distortions in social studies texts" across the United States, and that past social studies textbooks in Texas have been "tainted" with pro-Islamic, anti-Christian views.
It also notes that past world history books - no longer used in Texas schools - devoted far more lines of text to Islamic beliefs and practices than to Christian beliefs and practices.
The resolution concludes with a warning to publishers that the "State Board of Education will look to reject future prejudicial social studies submissions that continue to offend Texas law with respect to treatment of the world's major religious groups by significant inequalities of coverage space-wise and by demonizing or lionizing one or more of them over others."
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.