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Are government employees required to remain neutral on illegal activities?

From the Austin American Statesman [H/T Joshua Rosenau]

[Texas’] director of science curriculum has resigned after being accused of creating the appearance of bias against teaching intelligent design.


Comer was put on 30 days paid administrative leave shortly after she forwarded an e-mail in late October announcing a presentation being given by Barbara Forrest, author of “Inside Creationism’s Trojan Horse,” a book that says creationist politics are behind the movement to get intelligent design theory taught in public schools. … Comer sent the e-mail to several individuals and a few online communities, saying, “FYI.”

And there’s something wrong with doing that?

Agency officials … said forwarding the e-mail not only violated a directive for her not to communicate in writing or otherwise with anyone outside the agency regarding an upcoming science curriculum review, “it directly conflicts with her responsibilities as the Director of Science.” [Emphasis added]

How so?

The memo adds, “Ms. Comer’s e-mail implies endorsement of the speaker and implies that [Texas Education Agency] endorses the speaker’s position on a subject on which the agency must remain neutral.” [Emphasis added]

What? The Texas Education Agency must remain neutral on the issue of intelligent design? Why? Intelligent design isn’t science. Teaching intelligent design in science classes has been ruled as a violation of the Establishment Clause. Presumably the TEA isn’t supposed to appear neutral on the issue of selling drugs to school children. So where do they draw the line? Is it supposed to remain neutral on the scientific value of astrology? Doesn’t Texas fine textbook publishers for each error in textbooks? How can you identify errors if you need to remain neutral on issues related to factual accuracy?

The call to fire Comer came from Lizzette Reynolds, who previously worked in the U.S. Department of Education. She also served as deputy legislative director for Gov. George W. Bush.

Oh, well…that makes sense. Someone who worked for George W. Bush. I’m sure they learned never to let facts – or the law – get in the way of ideology.

“This is highly inappropriate,” Reynolds said in an e-mail to Comer’s supervisors. “I believe this is an offense that calls for termination or, at the very least, reassignment of responsibilities.

“This is something that the State Board, the Governor’s Office and members of the Legislature would be extremely upset to see because it assumes this is a subject that the agency supports.” [Emphasis added]

Obviously, I have no idea what Comers said in her email, or how it was presented. But that’s still entirely besides the point. Why shouldn’t the agency support upholding the law and the constitution? Oh, yeah, I forgot – former Bush employee. Up is down and down is up.

More from Wesley Elsberry and PZ Myers.


3 Responses

  1. […] position on a subject on which the agency must remain neutral.” [Emphasis added] … ianramjohn.wordpress.com/2007/11/29/are-government-employees-required-to-remain-neutral-on-illegal-a… Further thoughts […]

  2. I fear for Texas, yet again. I don’t know if you have ever read the platform of the Texas Republican Party, but this story shouldn’t seem so much of a surprise considering their aims.

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