2016 Elections: This Year’s Extremist Candidate for the Texas State Board of Education

The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) has a regrettable — but reliable — history of mixing the culture wars with public education. And, it seems, almost every election cycle — eight of the 15 SBOE seats are up for election this year — at least one candidate promises to make things even worse. This year is not different.

Meet Mary Lou Bruner. If you keep an eye on the SBOE like we do here at TFN, you might have seen her at a hearing here or two railing against Muslims. Bruner is running for SBOE District 9 seat as a Republican to replace fellow Republican Thomas Ratliff, a moderate who has tried to put an end to the circus atmosphere at the board and is not running for re-election.

Bruner, a former teacher, is not shy about sharing her views on social media. And while one of Bruner’s opponents, Hank Hering, has a concerning statement on his website that appears to dismiss the constitutional separation between church and state (“Restore principles and policies originally established by strong Judeo-Christian beliefs put in place by our Founders”), his public statements do not approach Bruner’s level of outrageousness.

From Bruner’s postings we know that if she wins the March 1 Republican primary — her opponents are Hering and Lufkin Independent School Board President Keven Ellis — and again in the November general, the board will have a member who, among other things, calls evolution a plot to promote godlessness, says slavery did not become an issue until the Civil War was well underway, and subscribes to a variety of fringe conspiracy theories — including a claim that President Obama once financed a drug habit by working as a prostitute.

Here is just some of what Bruner believes.

Views on Science
Bruner has said evolution “is a religious philosophy with propaganda supporting the religion of Atheism,” and that scientists have ignored and hidden evidence that humans and dinosaurs walked the planet at the same time (screenshot). And this is what she wrote about the extinction of dinosaurs (screenshot):

“When the flood waters subsided and rushed to the oceans there was no vegetation on the earth because the earth had been covered with water. … The dinosaurs on [Noah’s ark] may have been babies and not able to reproduce. … After the flood, the few remaining Behemoths and Leviathans may have become extinct because there was not enough vegetation on earth for them to survive to reproductive age.”

Unsurprisingly, Bruner doesn’t believe the overwhelming evidence in support of human-caused climate change (screenshot):

“Climate change has nothing to do with weather or climate; it is all about system change from capitalism (free enterprise) to Socialism-Communism. The Climate Change HOAX was Karl Marx’s idea. It took some time to ‘condition’ the people so they would believe such a ridiculous HOAX.”

Views on History
Bruner thinks slavery was a minor issue in the Civil War. In July 2014 she wrote that historians were biased against the southern states and rewrote history books once everyone alive during the Civil War had died (screenshot). She also thinks there’s no need for Black History Month, Mexican-American History Month or any other formally recognition of the historical contributions of minorities to the United States (screenshot).

Bruner also appears to back a Donal Trump-like plan to ban Islam from the United States (screenshot):

”Islam is not a religion. Islam is an inhumane totalitarian political ideology with radical religious rules and laws and barbaric punishments for breaking the religious rules.”

Conspiracy Theories
Why does President Obama support LGBT equality? That’s because the president is gay himself, Bruner says (screenshot):

“Obama has a soft spot for homosexuals because of the years he spent as a male prostitute in his twenties. That is how he paid for his drugs. He has admitted he was addicted to drugs when he was young, and he is sympathetic with homosexuals; but he hasn’t come out of the closet about his own homosexual/bisexual background.”

Bruner knows who really killed President John F. Kennedy (screenshot):

“Many people believe the Democrat Party had JFK killed because the socialists and Communists in the party did not want a conservative president. Remember who followed JFK as president — (LBJ). the exact opposite of Kennedy — a socialist and an unethical politician. It does seem like this might have been the master plan: They sneaked the bad guy (LBJ) into the administration on the coat-tail of a good guy (JFK). Then they got rid of the good guy; in the end, they got a socialist president which is what they originally wanted.”

Bruner also thinks the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, is part of the United Nation’s Agenda 21 conspiracy to “do away” with 200 million people from the United States (screenshot). And she echoes what some far-right activists have said: that all terrorists and mass-murderers are liberals and Democrats (screenshot).

You probably get the picture.

Bruner’s views on a variety of topics are too numerous to list here. If the above is any indication, her election would have the board often making headlines for all the wrong reasons … again.

Posted in 2016 Elections, Mary Lou Bruner, TFN | 19 Comments

The Week in Quotes (Jan. 31 – Feb. 6)

Here are some of the week’s most notable quotes culled from news reports from across Texas, and beyond.

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Far-Right Texas Pastor Jeffress: Obama Is ‘Defender-in-Chief of Islam’

Robert Jeffress, the far-right Dallas pastor who thinks President Obama is paving the way for the Antichrist, is troubled that the president visited a Baltimore mosque this week to express his opposition to bigotry and discrimination targeting Muslim Americans. After Jeffress spoke on Fox News today, the network tweeted some of his comments, including:

Pres. Obama is “operating in his favorite role… and that is defender-in-chief of Islam.”

Jeffress is so proud of his contempt for religious freedom, the president and Muslim Americans that he retweeted the Fox News post about his comments.

Posted in Islam, Robert Jeffress, TFNEF | 10 Comments

Woodfill Announces Bid for Texas GOP Chair at Anti-LGBT Hate Fest in Houston

We told you last week about Jared Woodfill’s coming bid for chair of the Texas Republican Party. He made the official announcement at an event hosted by Houston hate-monger Steve Hotze’s Conservative Republicans of Texas organization. The anti-LGBT rhetoric at the event was so vile that it appeared to make some of the folks even in that audience uncomfortable. The following article about the event is republished here with permission from Quorum Report, a widely respected, Austin-based website that focuses on Texas political news. Quorum Report’s Scott Braddock wrote it.

HOUSTON – A day after once again stepping onto the national political stage by inserting himself into the Planned Parenthood video fight, former Harris County GOP Chairman Jared Woodfill on Thursday evening formally announced he is running to lead the Republican Party of Texas. He is running alongside Texas Eagle Forum President Cathie Adams, who has announced for Vice Chair.

The announcement came as part of archconservative activist Steve Hotze’s first annual Conservative Republicans of Texas Dinner – an evening focused on opposition to the “homosexual movement” and railing against Texas House leadership under Speaker Joe Straus.

The long-expected announcement by Woodfill came after Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick took to the stage in a JW Marriott ballroom and heaped praise on the former county chairman for his role in last year’s defeat of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.

Patrick was the recipient of what Hotze called the “Warrior of Biblical Values Award.”

In accepting the award, Patrick noted that Woodfill, Hotze, pastors and others shocked the nation by soundly defeating HERO, called “The Bathroom Ordinance” by its detractors. “When the church will stand up and the pastors will speak out and bring their numbers together we as Christian conservatives cannot lose,” Patrick said, at times nearly shouting before the crowd of about 300.

Turning his comments to the race for the White House, Patrick said he has tried to offer encouragement to Sen. Ted Cruz as the GOP nominating contest has devolved into a war of insults with Donald Trump. As part of that encouragement, Patrick said he recently sent a text message to Cruz that read: “Remember your opponents cannot defeat you if the Lord is with you.”

The actual announcement of Woodfill’s candidacy for RPT chairman was contained in a video shown to the crowd. The announcer in the video boasted of the various political activities of CRT, including their part in the defeats of “RINO” Texas Senators John Carona of Dallas and Bob Deuell of Greenville.

Also in the video, Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, and Speaker Straus were sharply criticized for the failure of The Legislature to pass anti-gay marriage legislation. “This was all pre-orchestrated by the Straus leadership team,” said the announcer.

Naturally, the video omitted that the Texas Senate- under Patrick’s leadership – also failed to pass that exact same ban on use of government funding for the issuing of marriage licenses to homosexual couples.

Part of the video was essentially a greatest hits reel of Woodfill’s media interviews in which he spoke out against HERO. The announcer in the video said the “LGBT homosexual political movement” was “hell bent on creating sexual anarchy in our society.” The CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership, Bob Harvey, was called “pro-homosexual” and the Harris County Republican Party was slammed because its executive committee did not pass a resolution against HERO.

The party’s chairman Paul Simpson was criticized for failing to join in Hotze and Woodfill’s efforts against “the lesbian activist mayor of Houston” Annise Parker.

Hotze called his political opposition “foul” and said he received many death threats during his campaign against HERO. “If they have it their way…they will put you in jail and they will fine you,” Hotze said.

“Pedophilia is the next point. They’re going to come down and change that law,” Hotze said, adding that gay rights activists “want to pervert this society.” Even in a very conservative room, that comment drew what could charitably be described as tepid applause.

By the way, Lt. Gov. Patrick was not present when the announcement of Woodfill’s candidacy was made. Patrick left early, telling the crowd he needed to rush to a TV studio because he’d been invited to offer commentary on Fox News Channel about the GOP presidential debate.

Republished with permission. Copyright January 28, 2016, Harvey Kronberg, www.quorumreport.com. All rights are reserved.

Posted in Jared Woodfill, LGBT issues, TFNEF | 2 Comments

The Week in Quotes (Jan. 24 – 30)

Here are some of the week’s most notable quotes culled from news reports from across Texas, and beyond.

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David Barton’s New Edition of ‘The Jefferson Lies’

Pseudo-historian and political propagandist David Barton has announced a new edition of The Jefferson Lies, his troubled book about the nation’s third president. Oh boy.

Evangelical publisher Thomas Nelson Publishing ceased publication of The Jefferson Lies in 2012 after scholars pointed to factual inaccuracies and distortions in the book. But Barton turned to WND Books — the publishing arm of the right-wing conspiracy website World Net Daily — to keep the book in the marketplace.

Barton’s Texas-based WallBuilder’s organization announced the release of the new edition in an email on Wednesday:

“The new edition of The Jefferson Lies contains brand new information — over 25,000 more words than the first edition, with 60 more pages and an additional 200 footnotes. Almost 40% of this book is brand new content!”

Golly. Lots of new words and pages. But how many falsehoods and distortions are in the book this time? And did Barton correct any of the old ones? It seems revealing that a reputable publisher didn’t bother to pick up the new edition.

Steven Green, a constitutional scholar, historian and director of the Center for Religion, Law and Democracy at Willamette University in Oregon, reviewed the first edition of Barton’s book for TFN in 2012. An excerpt from that review:

[L]ike so many Christian nationalists, Barton engages in the fallacies of false analogies and reductionism. He falsely assumes that a person of faith could not support a regime of secular governance, one that sees the dangers lurking in forms of church-state interdependence. He highlights ‘inconsistencies’ while giving little account for the great body of Jefferson writings advocating for separation and religious liberty. And he fails to acknowledge the evolution of thought about church-state matters that transpired during the Founding period. The Jefferson who emerges is not the complex man who could promote liberty while holding slaves, or could advocate for secular government while holding his own heterodox theistic beliefs. Instead, to be an ‘American Hero’ in Barton’s view, Jefferson must be reduced to a two-dimensional figure who can only be religious if he is a Christian according to Barton’s narrow definition.

It’s rather doubtful Barton, a man whose versions of history conveniently fit his political agenda, does any better in the new edition.

Posted in David Barton, TFNEF | 2 Comments

Jared Woodfill: An Extremist’s Extremist

Jared Woodfill has a plan to win the chairmanship of the Texas Republican Party this year: rally some of the most viciously anti-LGBT and anti-abortion extremists in support. Naturally, religious-righters are thrilled.

Woodfill, a former Harris County GOP chair, helped craft and lead the reprehensible fear-mongering campaign that succeeded in repealing the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) last fall. That ordinance protected LGBT people from discrimination, but Woodfill and other HERO opponents screamed that it would endanger women and children in public bathrooms. (Never mind that Woodfill, an attorney, is defending a man sued for allegedly taking photographs of women changing clothes in a bathroom without their knowledge.)

After the success of the deeply dishonest anti-HERO campaign, Woodfill has now signed on to defend indicted anti-abortion activists who helped make deceptively edited videos attacking Planned Parenthood.

Whether he’s defending discrimination and smearing LGBT people or attacking women’s reproductive freedom, Woodfill has allied himself with the most repugnant creatures on the religious right. You can see that by reading a Houston Press report from a pro-Woodfill, “Take Back the Party” event in Houston last week. Speakers at the gathering bizarrely railed against Republican leaders they are trying to portray as closet liberals.

How bizarre is that? Consider that one of their targets is state Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball. Riddle thinks the idea of public education came “from Moscow, from Russia … straight out of the pit of hell.” She also wants public school students to read Bible verses in class, calls supporters of women’s access to abortion “pro-death,” and praises right-wing militants who take up arms to intimidate law enforcement.

Now Riddle is too liberal for Woodfill and his fellow religious-righters. Go figure.

Maybe in comparison, the extremists joining Woodfill at the various “Take Back the Party” events make Riddle sound almost like a free-love hippie chick. OK, not really — Riddle has made her home on the fringes of the far right throughout her political career.

In any case, here’s what the Houston Press reports prominent hate-monger Steve Hotze (who helped fund the anti-HERO campaign last year) had to say at the Houston gathering last week:

“I think what we’re missing in the Christian church today is a militant, warrior mentality,” Hotze said. “I know Jesus said not to take up arms, but I take the Old Testament literally. How many of you know what happened in HERO ordinance?” Everyone, obviously, raised their hand, and Hotze recounted the glory days (and mentioned Woodfill extensively, of course).

Then it got really weird.

“They want to force us to celebrate homosexuality and other perverted acts — that’s all they think about,” Hotze said. “What has our society come to when Bruce Jenner puts on a dress and goes on the ESPN and gets an award for courage?” Hotze deepened his voice an octave or two and gave a brief impression of Jenner: “uh, I’m Caitlyn Jenner, uh, yeah.” 

“Thirty years ago, they would have locked Jenner up,” Hotze continued. “These people are crazy as a bedbug. This is a wicked, evil, satanic movement. They want to recruit, brainwash our children, right when the hormones start kicking in. I know, I’m a doctor. We’ve got sick, sexually perverted presidents. Then we’ve got the Muslim problem, which is one thing I like about Dan, uh, Dan, uh, Dan, uh, Donald Trump. If you know about that religion, then you know they want you to do what they want you to do or they’ll cut your head off! We need people to stand up against this absurd, ungodly tomfoolery. We’re putting on a full-court press. We’re challenging 35 seats to say enough is enough. We’re going to do everything we can to take them down.”

The hate is strong with these people. But they love Jared Woodfill.

Posted in Jared Woodfill, LGBT issues, Steven Hotze, TFNEF | Tagged | 1 Comment

Indictments of Anti-Abortion Activists Send Cynical Texas Politicians into a Facts-Free Frenzy

Texas state Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, is foot-stomping mad that a Harris County grand jury has handed down indictments against two anti-abortion activists who helped make doctored videos attacking Planned Parenthood. The same grand jury essentially cleared Planned Parenthood of outrageous charges that the organization was illegally selling tissues from aborted fetuses.

Rep. Zedlers used Twitter in his dishonest temper tantrum:

Planned Parenthood illegally sells baby parts = praise & taxpayer funding. Exposing it = felony charges. Disgraceful!!!

So Zedler continues to promote a lie that the grand jury has already discredited. Moreover, his contempt for the law couldn’t be clearer. Zedler apparently has no problem with individuals who break the law in the promotion of a lie and political agenda that he supports. That’s the real disgrace, Rep. Zedler.

Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton also are promoting the same deceitful agenda. Both released statements on Monday (here and here) insisting that the state’s own “investigation” of Planned Parenthood will continue, facts be damned.

Their war on the the freedom of women to make their own reproductive health care choices and decide for themselves whether and when to have children will also continue. That’s also a disgrace.

Posted in abortion, Bill Zedler, Greg Abbott, Ken Paxton, TFNEF | 4 Comments

Breaking News: Harris County Grand Jury Indicts Makers of Anti-Planned Parenthood Videos

The religious right’s vicious and deceitful attack on Planned Parenthood — part of a long war on abortion and other other reproductive health care services for women — appears to be backfiring in a big way.

Last year anti-abortion activists released a number of deceptively edited, undercover videos that suggested Planned Parenthood was illegally selling tissue from aborted fetuses. Religious-righters and their political allies — like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick — demanded that authorities investigate and prosecute Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood officials strongly denied the charges and pointed out that the videos had been edited in a way designed to smear and embarrass the organization. Moreover, according to the Houston Chronicle, they argued that the video makers used fake government IDs and made other false representations in order to get into private conference and health care clinics when making the videos.

The Harris County District Attorney’s Office did launch an investigation, but it turns out that grand jurors in Houston appear to believe Planned Parenthood instead of the lies coming from anti-abortion fanatics.

A Harris County grand jury has declined to indict Planned Parenthood officials in Houston. Instead, the grand jury has handed down indictments against two people involved in making the videos. David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt were indicted on charges of tampering with a government document. According to Houston television station KTRK, Daleiden was also indicted on a charge involving the prohibition on the purchase and sale of human organs.

Harris County’s Republican district attorney, Devon Anderson had this to say:

“We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast. As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us. All the evidence uncovered in the course of this investigation was presented to the grand jury. I respect their decision on this difficult case.”

Lt. Gov. Patrick and other elected officials who so shamefully promoted the falsehoods in those videos owe Planned Parenthood a public apology.

Posted in abortion, Dan Patrick, TFNEF | 9 Comments

The Week in Quotes (Jan. 17 – 23)

Here are some of the week’s most notable quotes culled from news reports from across Texas, and beyond.

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Posted in The Week in Quotes | 1 Comment