Christian Science Monitor
from the November 04, 2003 edition -
A battle over books in Texas
Gillespie | Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor
AUSTIN, TEXAS -
... Last week the Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, based in Dallas, filed a lawsuit against
the Texas board [State Board of Education], charging it with violating First Amendment rights when it rejected an environmental
science textbook for use in state high schools. ...
It's a case of conservative special-interest groups wielding inappropriate power over academic interests,
critics charge, a particularly serious concern in Texas, where texts there have the potential to impact classrooms far beyond
the state's borders.
With 4.1 million public schoolchildren, Texas is the second-largest textbook buyer in the country, trailing
only California. Because Texas and California are such lucrative markets, textbook manufacturers tend to tailor their products
to the requirements of these two states, making any changes they may require.
Because other states represent smaller markets, most publishers won't publish special editions just for them, and they
often end up with the books approved by the two giants. ...
• Staff writer Kris Axtman contributed to this story.
Copyright © 2004 The Christian Science Monitor. All rights reserved.
Trial Lawyers for Public Justice
High School Students and Textbook Author Charge Texas State Board of Education Officials with
TLPJ Files First Amendment Lawsuit Against
Board Members for Rejecting Environmental Science Textbook
Trial Lawyers for Public Justice (TLPJ), a national public interest law firm, filed a First Amendment
lawsuit on October 30, 2003 in Dallas against Texas State Board of Education officials, charging that their November 2001
decision to reject an environmental science textbook for use in public high schools constitutes censorship in violation of
the U.S. Constitution. ...
The textbook at the center of this lawsuit is "Environmental Science: Creating a Sustainable
Future (6th Edition)" by Daniel D. Chiras, Ph.D., and published by Massachusetts-based Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
The book has been widely used for over 20 years in top-tier universities including Baylor University in Waco and the University
of Texas at Tyler. Despite the fact that Texas’ Commissioner of Education recommended adopting Dr. Chiras’ book,
and that review panels of science professors at Texas A&M University and the Science Teachers Association of Texas had
given the book high marks, the Board voted to reject the book.
"The Board’s rejection of this widely-used textbook was not based on any legitimate
concerns for factual accuracy or curriculum fulfillment," said TLPJ lead counsel Steve Baughman Jensen of Dallas’ Baron & Budd, P.C. "The Board rejected the book because 10 of its 15 members disagreed with Dr. Chiras’ viewpoints on environmental and
economic issues, views based on 30 years of scientific study. This lawsuit aims to expose this blatant censorship and end
this unconstitutional behavior." ...
"I was stunned by the Board’s decision to reject my textbook," said Dr. Chiras.
... "It is incredibly offensive and unfair that my book was falsely portrayed as ‘anti-Christian’
when this same book is used at Baylor University – a top-tier Christian school and Texas’ oldest university."...
On November 9, 2001, the Board voted to reject Dr. Chiras’ book in a 10-5 vote
held just one day after public hearings where TPPF and CSE attacked the book as anti-Christian, anti-free enterprise, and
anti-American. For example, TPPF charged that Dr. Chiras’ book was not acceptable for classroom use because of its allegedly
"heavy bias toward radical politics." Indeed, TPPF’s spokesperson portrayed the text as unpatriotic based on Dr. Chiras’
favorable view of the marketability of solar energy sources. Although the Board did not name any grounds for rejecting Dr.
Chiras’ book, individual Board members’ statements show the influence of TPPF and CSE. In short, the Board improperly
rejected Dr. Chiras’ book because the author’s viewpoint did not echo their own political and religious views.
The complaint in the case, Chiras v. Miller, is posted on TLPJ’s web site,
© 2004 The TLPJ Foundation