Social conservatives on the board joined in a 7-6 vote for a resolution citing two textbooks – no longer used in Texas – that it said had a pro-Islamic, anti-Christian bias in how historic events were treated and in how much coverage was given to each faith.
That won't be tolerated, the board said, when new social studies books are approved in two years.
"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.
The resolution said the move was spurred in part by increasing investments in the textbook publishing industry by "Middle Easterners" who could dictate biased treatment. An attachment to the resolution cited past investments by the Dubai royal family in a major U.S. publisher.
All seven social conservatives on the board supported the resolution, while three Democrats and three moderate Republicans voted against it.
Two Democratic board members were absent: Mary Helen Berlanga of Corpus Christi told other board members she had to attend to a family illness; and Rene Nunez of El Paso was present for part of the meeting but left before the vote to attend to personal business.
Dallas' two members – Democrat Mavis Knight and Republican Geraldine Miller – both voted no.
Opponents, who tried to derail the resolution in a series of parliamentary maneuvers, called the proposal a waste of time that will further undermine the board's reputation.
"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" and criticized supporters for "throwing out" accusations about pro-Muslim bias without any proof.
"There is no evidence that [business interests in the Middle East] are buying into our textbook companies. These are baseless accusations, and this resolution is unfair," he said.
But Terri Leo, R-Spring, said it was necessary to send a "clear message" to publishers that what the resolution called past bias against Christianity and other religions "should not happen in the future."
While some textbooks have credited Islam for treating women better than other religions, Leo recounted examples of the opposite. Among them, she said, are reports of Muslim women having their fingers chopped off for painting their nails or being threatened with punishment for not covering themselves head to toe in public.
The resolution states that "diverse reviewers have repeatedly documented gross pro-Islamic, anti-Christian distortions in social studies texts" across the U.S. and that past social studies textbooks in Texas also have been "tainted" with pro-Islamic, anti-Christian views.
It also says that some 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.
After listing its reasons, the board said in the resolution that it "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."
The vote came after lengthy testimony from witnesses, most of whom urged the panel to adopt the resolution.
Among critics of the resolution were the Texas Freedom Network and the American Civil Liberties Union.
"It is hard not to conclude that the members who voted for this resolution were solely interested in playing on fear and bigotry in order to pit Christians against Muslims," said Kathy Miller of the Texas Freedom Network, speaking afterward.
"These board members simply refuse to put the education of Texas schoolchildren ahead of personal and political agendas."
Supporting the board was the Liberty Institute, which applauded the vote.
"It's good to have an elected board that is trying to do its due diligence to make sure religious discrimination is banned from our children's textbooks," said Jonathan Saenz of the Liberty Institute.
Among those urging the board to take action was Mary Lou Bruner of Mineola in Northeast Texas, who said some Texas students are ashamed of their Christian heritage because of what they see in textbooks.
"If Islam is presented in positive light and Christianity is taught in a negative light, it will encourage our children to question their Christian faith," she said. "Students must be told the truth about Islam, about some of the terrible atrocities that have been committed in the name of Islam."
That includes the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. and such punitive actions as beheadings, stonings and loss of limbs for those who violate religious precepts, she said.
Board members who opposed the resolution first tried to soften the language to say that the panel wants fair and equal treatment of all religions. Their proposal removed references to Islam.
After that failed, they offered a series of motions to delay the proposal until the next board meeting. But they again were rebuffed.
so ashamed of my state rn; this seems to happen often though
sauce: Dallas Morning News