Debates in Texas about what public school students should learn about religion vividly illustrate the maxim that classrooms are often the frontline of the "culture wars." The passage of a state law mandating instruction about the Bible; the creation of social studies standards that emphasize religion while downplaying the separation of church and state; and the approval of a resolution condemning purported pro-Islamic and anti-Christian biases in textbooks have all drawn national and international attention. Are such measures merely reflections of the desire to ensure fair-handed treatment of religion, or are they attempts to promote Christianity? To what extent do they reflect larger struggles to define American identity? Mark Chancey, professor and chair of Southern Methodist University's Department of Religious Studies, addresses these questions and discusses how the situation in Texas relates to what is going on elsewhere in the country.
Speaker William Martin
William Martin, Ph.D., is the Harry and Hazel Chavanne Senior Fellow in Religion and Public Policy at the Baker Institute and the Chavanne Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Rice University. His areas of research and writing at the Baker Institute focus on two major sets of issues: 1) the political …
William Martin, Ph.D., is the Harry and Hazel Chavanne Senior Fellow in Religion and Public Policy at the Baker Institute and the Chavanne Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Rice University. His areas of research and writing at the Baker Institute focus on two major sets of issues: 1) the political implications of religion, particularly fundamentalist religions and the importance of the separation of religion and government, or “church and state”; and 2) ways to reduce the harms associated with both drug abuse and drug policy. His articles, most of which deal with aspects of religion, have appeared in such publications as Texas Monthly, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s and Esquire, as well as in professional journals. His book “A Prophet with Honor: The Billy Graham Story” is regarded as the authoritative biography of Billy Graham. An updated edition of his 1996 book “With God on Our Side: The Rise of the Religious Right in America,” the companion volume to a six-hour documentary PBS miniseries of the same name, was reissued in June 2005 by Broadway Books. He is a frequent guest on national and local news and discussion programs. During his 44 years at Rice, Martin has received numerous teaching awards, including a Lifetime Award for Excellence in Teaching. Martin received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1969.