Alleged Hate Group Leader Appointed to State Textbook Commission
The head of the anti-Muslim group, Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, could soon determine what your children read
House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) has recently appointed Laurie Cardoza-Moore to the Tennessee State Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission. The appointment, which had been vacant since 2019, runs through June 30, 2022. It is unpaid but does cover travel expenses.
The commission has three school supervisors and principals, three teachers, three members of the general public, along with the Commissioner of Education or her designee. The nine open seats are appointed by the Speaker, the Lt. Governor and the Governor, three apiece. Several of the seats have been empty for years, and other recent appointments, like Cardoza-Moore’s, have not yet been approved by the General Assembly.
Normally such appointments sail through, but Cardoza-Moore’s appointment is likely to stir up controversy — something with which she’s very familiar. Cardoza-Moore is the head of the Franklin-based nonprofit, Proclaiming Justice to the Nations (PJTN), a Zionist organization that ostensibly fights anti-Semitism. While that might seem like a noble cause, PJTN’s tactics are really in support of a Christian return to Israel. They also happen to take a very anti-Muslim way to get there.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has deemed PJTN a hate group for its work, which include initiatives like “Stop Access Islam.” (This designation led Amazon to delist the group from its Smile program last year.) PJTN’s allegations of scary Islamic indoctrination include:
WAKE UP AMERICA!
Did you know during this new school year children within our American public school system grades 5 through 12 are:
Required to learn about the Five Pillars of Islam and asked to create posters about them?
Asked to read and provide life lessons from scripture from the Quran and how it is implemented into Muslim life?
Truly, learning about a religion practiced by 1.8 billion people worldwide must be indoctrination! (PJTN has also called to boycott Airbnb because they won’t list vacation rentals in the occupied West Bank.¯\_(ツ)_/¯)
That’s just the beginning of Cardoza-Moore’s anti-Muslim actions. She led opposition to the mosque in Murfreesboro, saying it was a front for terrorists and an attempt to get rid of Nashville’s Christian book publishing and music business. She fought against the Islamic Center in New York City and gave a speech at the site in 2010. That was followed by a memorable appearance on The Daily Show, during which she said that “30 percent” of Muslims “are terrorists.” She has also spread nonsense rumors about U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) being connected to terrorists. Oh, and she said former U.S. President Barack Obama caused tornadoes after he gave a speech in support of a Palestinian state. (No, I am not kidding.)
“This individual should not be anywhere near the selection of textbooks in Tennessee or any state,” says Ibrahim Hooper, the communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization. “She clearly has anti-Muslim views that inevitably would negatively impact any textbook selection. We would urge the speaker to rescind the appointment immediately.”
But it’s not just Islam that Cardoza-Moore wants out of her textbooks, even though you literally cannot teach World History or even AP European History without it. On Fox News this summer, she said the greatest “national security threat” was not Muslim terrorists — it was history textbooks.
“The Constitution does not and did not endorse slavery. It didn’t even mention slavery,” Cardoza-Moore said. “But, this propaganda is taught to our children.”
[The constitution absolutely did both mention and endorse slavery. See: The Electoral College, on top of everything else.]
“No longer do we even teach our children about the founding of our country. We don’t tell our kids the story about the Puritans, the sacrifices that they made. We don’t talk about the American Revolution anymore. We don’t talk about Haym Solomon who helped bankroll the American Revolution with George Washington,” she pointed out. “Now we start at Reconstruction. And, when you start at the Civil War, the darkest time in our history, it is no surprise that we see chaos erupting in our communities.”
“This is an outrage,” Cardoza-Moore exclaimed. “It poses the greatest national security threat to our constitutional republic.”
“With her history, it’s unthinkable that they would nominate someone like her who opposes the teaching of history as it actually happened,” says Sabina Mohyuddin, the head of the American Muslim Advisory Council in Nashville, a nonprofit that fights anti-Muslim discrimination in Tennessee. “Our children deserve to learn history as it happened. Our children deserve experts. And the commission will lose credibility with her on it.”
Cardoza-Moore has repeatedly tried to interfere in Tennessee’s public education, despite home-schooling her own five children. In 2015, she tried to get an interim appointment to the Williamson County School Board. Ultimately her nomination was so controversial she was forced to withdraw her name.
In the description of a recent online event in Chattanooga, “Let’s Talk About the New American Textbooks,” Cardoza-Moore describes herself “a valued advisor to Tennessee state legislators in the review and correction of inaccurate and biased content in curriculum.” PJTN has also led its own “textbook review committees” in an attempt to ferret out “bias,” “slant” and “half-truths” in selected textbooks.
One criticism of a middle grade civics text chapter on the constitution notes, “It is important for the student to understand that the natural rights come from God.” Another note on the media and politics chapter states, “The passage on the press and Ronald Reagan airbrushes out the unity with which the media loathed and vituperated him while he was the President. The Reviewer suggests that it be rewritten to include discussion of media bias and media aligning against and trying to destroy a public figure.”
But despite her “expertise” in education, Cardoza-Moore’s personal Facebook page is full of discredited posts. There are conspiracy theories about the election and COVID-19, including links to the debunked, Falun Gong-sponsored “news” site, The Epoch Times. In one post, Cardoza-Moore even seems to endorse the foiled kidnapping plot of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, writing, “Am I missing something here? Didn’t the Founders address removing a tyrant from office in the Constitution? Michiganders, it’s time to step up and defend your Constitutional rights!”
State. Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) says this alone is disqualifying.
“I don’t think we want to invite conspiracy theorists into leadership positions that require objectivity and discernment. Nor do we want to give hate speech a platform and bullhorn,” says Johnson, who serves on the House Education Committee and is a former public school teacher. “When I think about the thousands of Tennesseans who support public education and want to collaborate to make it better, it boggles the mind we would select someone who has gone on a crusade in the national media to malign public education.”
There’s one other reason Cardoza-Moore possibly shouldn’t be serving on a state board — her nonprofit has spent money on lobbying in recent years. PJTN took in over $1 million in 2018, the latest year for which its Form 990 was available. In 2017, it spent around $100,000 on non-taxable lobbying, including grassroots. Cardoza-Moore was paid $130,239, and the organization spent almost as much — $111,571 — on travel for her and other employees. Its expenses were slightly higher than the money it raised, one of many reasons the nonprofit is rated just one star on Charity Navigator. The Israeli government must not care though, as it recently gave the organization a $40,000 grant.
It’s possible that Cardoza-Moore will be regularly outvoted on the panel 8 to 1, assuming she’s ultimately appointed and the other spots are ultimately filled. But given that Tennessee is already near the bottom of the country in education spending and outcomes, why appoint someone who wants to make textbooks dumber to the state textbook commission?
Sexton originally said he’d be glad to answer this question, via his spokesperson, Doug Kufner. Despite promising to get me a quick comment, Kufner never got back to me. (If he does, I will update this post and also post the update on Twitter.)
State Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis), a member of the Senate Education Committee the appointment is a bad look for both the state and the General Assembly.
“The textbook commission and students across this state are best served by public education advocates who have strong ties to our local school districts,” Akbari says. “These appointments should embody good judgement and be committed to supporting students — not extreme political agendas.”
Beyond the educational damage ahistorical textbooks could inflict upon the almost 1 million students in Tennessee public schools, there’s the very real damage of being Muslim or Black and reading texts that present your own ancestors’ history inaccurately. (And let’s not forget the anti-science takes— Cardoza-Moore appears to be an avowed anti-masker.)
One Muslim parent with two children in a suburban Nashville district says she is horrified that an Islamophobic board member could be determining which textbooks her kids read.
“There are real life consequences of unleashing hate on a minority group,” says the parent, who didn’t want to be named due to past abuse her family has suffered because of their faith. “It is disappointing to see this kind of anti-Muslim bigotry sanctioned and normalized by elected officials — yet they claim Christian values!”
One of the policies of the state textbook commission says the objectives for the Commission’s selection of textbooks include, “To provide students with a background of information to encourage critical thinking,” and, “To place principle above personal opinion and reason above prejudice in the selection of materials of the highest quality in order to assure a comprehensive media collection appropriate for the educators and students.”
There’s nothing in Cardoza-Moore’s past that suggests she would be able to do either.
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