High Noon in Austin: AU Activist Brian Spears Fires Back at Cranky Critics on the Texas State Board of Education

By Bathija, Sandhya | Church & State, November 2010 | Go to article overview

High Noon in Austin: AU Activist Brian Spears Fires Back at Cranky Critics on the Texas State Board of Education


Bathija, Sandhya, Church & State


Brian Spears can proudly say he has done his best to school the Texas State Board of Education.

Spears, president of the Austin Americans United Chapter, recently testified before the board in opposition to the ultra-conservative faction's latest political stunt--a resolution criticizing publishers for supposedly promoting "pro-Islamic/anti-Christian" bias in world history textbooks.

When Spears was finished with his Sept. 24 remarks, he found himself facing a Religious Right inquisition.

"I take issue with a statement you made that the Constitution establishes the separation of church and state," Board Member David Bradley said.

Holding up a booklet of the Constitution and a wad of cash, Bradley smugly continued, "I have a copy of the Constitution in case you'd like one. I'll make you the same offer that I made The New York Times--$1,000 to the charity of your choice ... if you can find in this document the words 'separation of church and state.'"

Bradley apparently thought he had outsmarted the Americans United activist. He found out he was wrong when Spears confidently countered, "It's probably alongside 'the right to privacy' and 'the separation of powers' and other understood concepts from the Constitution that do not exist in those exact words in the Constitution."

Responded Bradley, "OK, so then your statement was misleading?"

"No," Spears replied, defending his testimony while receiving an appreciative chuckle from many in the audience of about 100 people.

Board Member Ken Mercer then piped up, "Do you agree the separation of church and state is not in the Constitution?"

"The phrase is not, but the concept is," Spears asserted. He later told Church & State that it was as if the board members were just not competent enough to understand.

"It was like I was a schoolteacher, and they just weren't getting it," said Spears.

It's probably true that they just don't "get it." In the past few years, a right-wing bloc has turned the state board into the laughing stock of the nation, pushing creationism in the science curriculum and advancing Christian-nation revisionist history as part of the social studies curriculum. …

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