Tennessee textbook commission appointee criticized as anti-Muslim

Apr. 2—This story was updated at 10:18 a.m. on Friday, April 2, 2021, with more information.

NASHVILLE — Tennessee lawmakers are moving to confirm the nomination of activist Laurie Cardoza-Moore, who made national news by opposing a Middle Tennessee mosque project, to the Tennessee Textbook and Instructional Materials Quality Commission.

Members of the Republican-dominated Senate Education Committee voted 7-1 Wednesday for Cardoza-Moore, who was nominated to the post by House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville. With the nomination already clearing major House panels, that sets the stage for final floor votes.

The 16-member commission oversees Tennessee government's list of textbooks and instructional materials recommended for use by Tennessee public school students. She is already serving on the panel pending confirmation.

Cardoza-Moore, a Franklin resident, garnered national attention when she spearheaded efforts opposing the building of a mosque in Murfreesboro in 2010 and 2011.

During her Senate appearance, Cardoza-Moore was introduced by Sen. Janice Bowling, R-Tullahoma, who said, "Laurie prays for a day when parents in the Volunteer State can send their children to school with the knowledge they are receiving a wholesome, accurate, unbiased American education."

After her appointment by Sexton in November, the Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned her nomination, saying "This individual should not be anywhere near the selection of textbooks in Tennessee or any state. She clearly has anti-Muslim views that inevitably would negatively impact any textbook selection."

Cardoza-Moore said that as a homeschooling mother of five in the "shadow" of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, her "original wake-up call to the state of America's education system came in the discovery of inaccurate and biased content being used in the classrooms of Williamson County."

She is the founder and president of the Franklin-based nonprofit Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, which fights anti-Semitism and is characterized by the left-leaning Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group for its anti-Muslim views.

Educational content appeared to be "going in one direction... It was opinion, not fact and it seemed to be purposed to persuade our children to adopt specific points of view," Cardoza-Moore said. "This was the beginning of my quest to bring awareness of what I soon discovered was a nationwide problem."

She said "before us is a mandate, an opportunity to turn back the tide on the negative forces that have invaded our children's curricula for decades" with historically "inaccurate" information.

Cardoza-Moore sought to blame last year's social unrest over police brutality on what is being taught, saying "our streets have been filled with rioting, destructive American young people who have not been taught the values entrusted to us by our nation's founders."

Asked by Sen. Raumesh Akbari, D-Memphis, about Cardoza-Moore's assertion Tennessee textbooks contain inaccurate content, Cardoza-Moore pointed to what she said was a quote in a book "that legitimized Palestinians blowing themselves up in a Jerusalem restaurant because they were waging a war against Israeli policies and army actions."

In response to another Akbari question in which she asked whether Cardoza-Moore stood by her 2010 statement that the mosque under construction in Murfreesboro was a "terrorist training camp," Cardoza-Moore said "There were two members who were tied to Hamas sitting on their board at the time they requested to build a 52,000-square-foot facility."

One of them, she said, had a MySpace page "where he had posted that he was actively recruiting Muslims to kill Jews to free Palestine."

Akbari replied "There was no proof or verification from law enforcement of the allegations that you were making against those members."

Akbari told the committee she "cannot think of anyone more uniquely unqualified to be on this commission. This person, this individual has peddled hate, anti-Muslim rhetoric and a conspiracy theory about what happened Sept. 11."

Noting she is a Christian, Akbari said having someone on the Textbook Commission "who devalues other people's religion and used it as a cloak to say that it's anti-Semitic is insane."

She cast the lone no vote against Cardoza-Moore. Senators voting to confirm Cardoza-Moore included Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.