Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC) is one of North Carolina's staunchest defenders from Islamic extremism. When it comes to Christian extremism, though, the record is more mixed.
Myrick held a forum on Thursday, Feb. 25, with about 200 of her Charlotte-area constituents from the Muslim community to address what many see as a record of offensive statements: She has suggested that U.S. House and Senate members shouldn't hire Muslims as interns—they might be trying to infiltrate the government. And she has openly voiced concerns about the number of Muslims operating convenience stores across the country. In 2008, she lobbied then-Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to revoke former President Jimmy Carter's passport for meeting with leaders of Hamas.
At last week's two-hour forum, Myrick presided over a largely civil discussion of her record as a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which has oversight of anti-terrorism strategies, and a somewhat less civil exchange over her defense against Islamic extremism, which itself has bordered on the extreme.
However, Myrick's concern over religious extremism seems relegated to practitioners of one religion. At the forum, she pointedly avoided applying the label of "terrorist" to Joseph Stack, the 53-year-old Texan who flew his airplane into an IRS building in Austin in February.
Perhaps of greater concern, though, is Myrick's work with a right-wing evangelical group whose cause celebre violates the First Amendment's establishment clause.
The National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools states on its Web site that it aims to "bring a state certified (sic) Bible course (elective) into the public high schools nationwide." The council claims that its curriculum is in place in 532 school districts in 38 states. (The NCBCPS doesn't release specifics, so this claim is difficult to verify.)
In its literature, the council echoes other Eurocentric groups' concerns over the U.S.'s increasing diversity. "There has been a great social regression since the Bible was removed from our schools," the group claims in its justification of the legality of its cause. "We need to refer to the original documents that inspired Americanism and our religious heritage."
On its Web site, the NCBCPS lists members of its advisory board, many of them North Carolina elected officials. Myrick's name is third from the top, and is followed by that of fellow N.C. Rep. Robin Hayes.
NCBCPS founder Elizabeth Ridenour was a Greensboro-based paralegal when she started the organization in the '90s. The curriculum she helped develop, "The Bible in History and Literature," has been savaged by other Protestants as inaccurate and biased. Mark Chancey, a teacher at Southern Methodist University, said in 2005 that the curriculum contained "shoddy research, factual errors and plagiarism." Chancey is a member of the Freedom Network, a liberal Christian group, and his analysis has been endorsed by scores of other biblical scholars.
Though the NCBCPS publicly denounced Chancey's criticisms, , calling them "far left, anti-religion extremists," it shortly thereafter tapped actor Chuck Norris to promote a new version of its curriculum that incorporated many of Chancey's recommendations.
Time magazine, the Chicago Tribune and the Anti-Defamation League have also jumped on the anti-NCBCPS bandwagon, arguing that, though biblical instruction in public schools may be constitutional, the NCBCPS curriculum certainly is not. And the courts agree.
The NCBCPS provides a "legal opinion" on its Web site from several law professors and practicing lawyers that asserts the legality of its text, but the opposite has been found twice in arbitration.
The NCBCPS curriculum was found in violation of the First Amendment in the cases Moreno v. Ector County School Board and Gibson v. Lee County School Board. In Moreno, the lawsuit was settled when the Ector County, Texas, School Board agreed to drop the curriculum and desist from ever offering any course materials produced by the NCBCPS.
Myrick did not return calls seeking comment. The NCBCPS did not return a message left at Greensboro office by press deadline.
Myrick faces a Democratic challenge this November from local businessman Jeff Doctor, but he doesn't have much of a chance. The 9th is a gerrymandered Republican district. In 2006, one of the most hostile years to Republicans in recent memory, she won with almost 70 percent of the popular vote.