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Activist who opposed mosque confirmed to textbook panel

April 13, 2021 GMT

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — An activist known for her fight against the establishment of a mosque in Tennessee a decade ago has drawn state lawmakers’ approval to serve on a commission that recommends textbooks and instructional materials for K-12 schools, despite opponents saying she espoused anti-Muslim views.

The Tennessee House voted 66-26 on Monday evening to confirm Laurie Cardoza-Moore to the post on the state’s Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission, following a similar vote by the Senate last week. Both chambers have a supermajority of Republicans.

Republican House Speaker Cameron Sexton made the nomination to the commission. He said Cardoza-Moore has been a “great advocate” in the several weeks she has served on the commission ahead of her confirmation.

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The panel is tasked with recommending an official list of textbooks and instructional materials for approval by the State Board of Education.

Cardoza-Moore is the founder and president of the Franklin-based nonprofit group Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, which claims a cause of fighting anti-Semitism, but has drawn criticism that it’s pushing an anti-Muslim agenda. It has published reviews of textbooks in what the group calls an effort to “eliminate anti-Semitic, anti-Judeo/Christian, Anti-American, pro-Islamic indoctrination of students in our schools.”

She came into the spotlight in 2010 for fighting against plans for a mosque in Murfreesboro. In a hearing late last month, Democratic Sen. Raumesh Akbari asked her about comments then that the mosque being built was a terrorist training camp.

Cardoza-Moore told the senator that there were “absolutely” terrorists in the group, prompting Akbari to say there was “no proof or verification from law enforcement” of what she claimed about two mosque members.

She also drew questioning over a textbook review on her group’s website that says the phrasing that “members of al-Qaeda carried out” the Sept. 11 attacks was “highly contested.”

“There is ample evidence that refute the ‘official’ story of what was perpetrated that day,” the review says.

During questioning in the Senate panel, Cardoza-Moore said she “would never say that al-Qaeda didn’t participate.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations has opposed Cardoza-Moore’s appointment.

“Someone with such bigoted, un-American and conspiratorial views should never be in charge of any state’s educational materials, which are designed to help shape young minds in a diverse society,” Council Director of Government Affairs Department Robert S. McCaw said in a statement earlier this month.

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Supporters of Cardoza-Moore’s nomination say the complaints against her are outside of the scope of what she would be reviewing.

“Her role is math and language arts,” Sexton, the House speaker, told reporters last week. “A lot of people in committee were complaining, talking about civics and history. It wasn’t pertinent to what she’s being appointed to.”

Cardoza-Moore told House lawmakers last month that “everybody has an opportunity to believe what they want to believe and be protected in that process.”

“My beliefs are the same beliefs that everyone of the Abrahamic faith adhere to,” Cardoza-Moore told a House panel late last month. “And because of that faith and those beliefs, that’s what protects and allows the beauty of America, especially through our political system and our education system.”