Lies from the Religious Right Target Abortion and Equality

Faith leaders teach that lying is a sin. So why do religious-righters distort the truth so shamelessly in pushing their extreme political agenda? You can see at least two big examples in Texas right now.

One of the biggest falsehoods religious-right groups are pushing right now is the claim that Margaret Sanger founded Planned Parenthood to help exterminate the African-American population through abortion and other methods. Today the right-wing Texas Pastor Council, a political front group run by odious hate-monger Dave Welch, tweeted a partial quote from Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger:

“We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population.”

We won’t help spread this nonsense by posting the full tweet here, but you can see it at the link above. The tweet includes a photograph and a phone number activists can call to demand that the Smithsonian Institution remove a bust of Sanger.

But wait. Did Sanger want to exterminate African Americans? Of course not. And PolitiFact has already debunked that claim as a ridiculous lie. It did so more than four years ago when checking a similar claim from Herman Cain, then and now a Republican presidential candidate. Cain had claimed that Planned Parenthood was guilty of genocide for planning to “kill black babies before they came into the world.” PolitiFact investigated the evidence and ruled Cain’s comment as a “Pants on Fire” lie.

The PolitiFact article even looked at the quote the Texas Pastor Council is pushing in today’s tweet. From PolitiFact:

Those who think Sanger wanted black genocide cite the Negro Project. But even their strongest evidence, a passage from a letter she wrote advocating that organizers recruit black ministers for the project, does not come close to proving a genocidal plot.

Sanger wrote that “We don’t want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs.”

But her correspondence shows this sentence advocates for black doctors and ministers to play leadership roles in the Negro Project to avoid misunderstandings. Lynchings and Jim Crow laws gave blacks good reason to be wary of attempts to limit the number of children they bore. In Harlem, she hired a black doctor and social worker to quell those fears.

The facts of the Negro Project suggest nothing more genocidal than a public health project. Black leaders DuBois and Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of the National Council of Negro Women, and the pastor of the influential black Abyssinian Baptist Church were members of its advisory council. First lady Eleanor Roosevelt was supportive.

For Sanger to launch a genocidal plot behind their backs and leave no true evidence in her numerous writings would require powers just shy of witchcraft.

Really, calling the Negro Project a genocidal plot defies common sense. Why would Sanger try to destroy a race of people by giving them access to the very thing she thought could make life better?

So the Texas Pastor Council — which includes folks who surely know that lying is a sin — purposely failed to include the full quote from Sanger and the context for that quote. Pants on fire, indeed.

But the mistruths don’t end there. Welch and his Texas Pastor Council are also leading the effort to repeal Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). They’ve based their campaign on another distortion: that the ordinance will allow men to go in to public restrooms to assault women and girls. But two years ago PolitiFact ruled that the same claims about San Antonio’s similar Non-Discrimination Ordinance — claims pushed by Welch’s religious-right buddy Jonathan Saenz of the far-right group Texas Values, an affiliate of Focus on the Family — were plainly false.

That won’t stop Welch and his cronies from pushing the same falsehood in Houston, of course. Their entire campaign is based on misleading voters to promote fear, hate and the freedom to discriminate. One could say that their campaign offers a pretty good case for why the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance is a good law. Click here to learn more about defending HERO.

HERO and similar measures protect everyone against discrimination, regardless of race, sex, age, military status, sexual orientation, gender identity and other characteristics. Opposing discrimination and treating everyone as equal under the law represent core American values. But religious-right activists challenge that value — and want to further restrict women’s access to abortion and other reproductive health care services — with an avalanche of lies.

Posted in abortion, Dave Welch, Houston Area Pastor Council, Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, Jonathan Saenz, Texas Pastor Council, Texas Values | Leave a comment

More Fear-Mongering from the Texas Renewal Project

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (speaking in a recorded message) and his father Rafael warned about religious persecution, homosexual domination of pulpits, and churches forced to hire pedophiles at a gather of about 1,000 pastors and their spouses in Austin this week, according to one of the attendees of the Texas Renewal Project event.

The Texas Renewal Project — launched in 2005 as the Texas Restoration Project — provides free lodging and meals for attendees who come to listen to select politicians and religious-right leaders demand that Christians assert control over American government. (Not just any Christians, mind you. They’re talking about fundamentalist Christians with a particular right-wing political view.) The funding source is unknown, but major campaign donors to then-Gov. Rick Perry paid for the six events in 2005. All of those events featured speeches by Perry in the run-up to his re-election race the next year.

In addition to Abbott and the Cruzes, this week’s event featured former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. Huckabee and Ted Cruz are both seeking the Republican nomination for president in 2016. David Barton, the phony historian and head of Texas-based WallBuilders, was among the religious-right leaders who spoke.

You can read the full report from the two-day gathering at Talk to Action here. Some excerpts:

Texas Governor Greg Abbott was the first featured speaker.  He reminded the audience of mostly pastors that there is a rising tide of hostility against religion threatening all of us.  He suggested pastors need to pass out voter guides in the church to help elect better leaders.  To guard against the loss of religious liberty he boasted he was the one as Attorney General who kept the Ten Commandment Monument on the lawn at the state capital. …

[Rafael Cruz] said the Danbury letter, used in history to defend separation of church and state in America, means that the wall is only one way.  That is, the wall of separation was set up to protect the church from government intervention, not vice versa. (First Amendment scholars disagree with his conclusion.) The ex-Communist next told us that in 1962, prayer was banned from public schools. In 1963, the Bible was banned. He said that Homosexual pastors can now come to your church and if you refuse to hire them you will be sued for Civil Rights violation. He next listed what he said were several lies from Democratic candidates. He gave his civics opinion on the American system of government. He proposed the Biblical version of government is local control, not Federal. He went on to state that the majority of pastors hide behind the pulpit scared to death of losing their tax exempt status. …

Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee was the last orator. He boasted he knows the prime Minister of Israel personally. He compared him to Winston Churchill. This friendship helped Mike to better understand the recent treaty with Iran. Huckabee said the Iran deal is phony. It places the world in great harm according to the candidate. He said we finance Iran’s military strength and Iran can then use this military weaponry against us. He noted through this treaty America is under contract to attack Israel instead of Iran in case of an Iranian attack on Israel. Mike noted our nation punished productive people and rewards slackers. We need to scrap the IRS  and the current tax code. He wants to replace this with a flat tax. There will be no income tax in his administration if he is elected. …

One of the underling themes of the meeting was the “what might happen” factor. There was little justification for the warnings. I spoke with religious liberty experts who assured me there wasn’t any push by anyone to force churches to hire gay pastors. Churches did not operate under the same guidelines as a business. [David] Barton stated that if a pedophile wanted to be hired by a church to work with children, the church could be sued if they did not hire him. I asked Barton in the hallway if he really meant this.  He assured me there were already court cases of pedophiles seeking to be hired in churches to work with children.

I spoke with several participants who sat there listening to these things. The ones I spoke to did not find the pedophile story outlandish. As in recent visits to these types of meetings, I have noted a common willingness to believe statements, no matter how outlandish. Barton has stated before that ministers who read from the book of Romans from the pulpit can now be arrested by the Federal Government.

Barton and Rafael Cruz have made similar arguments at earlier gatherings of the Texas Renewal Project. (See here and here, for example.)

Posted in David Barton, Greg Abbott, Rafael Cruz, Ted Cruz, Texas Renewal/Restoration Project, TFNEF | 2 Comments

Faith Leaders Support the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance

The Texas Freedom Network is helping faith leaders organize in support of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance and its protections against discrimination for all Houstonians. Check out the email that just went out from Fran Watson, Faith Organizer for Houston Unites:

Faith leaders for HERO

Heads up, Houston: we’ve got some work to do.

As you’ve likely heard by now, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance — that we worked so hard to pass just a year ago — is in jeopardy. On November 3, we have to win it again — this time at the ballot box. As a faith leader, we need you to speak out in support of HERO. Add your name to the pledge today.

As a native Houstonian who values faith and has a passion for equality, it is heartbreaking to see faith being used as a tool to attack members of our community, which in turn, creates a division that is contrary to what HERO is intended to do: unify the city by providing protections for ALL Houstonians.

That’s why I’m thrilled to come on board with the Texas Freedom Network and the Houston Unites campaign to magnify faith voices in Houston that support equality for everyone.

Faith leaders for HERO

The first thing you can do to help is sign the pledge. After signing the pledge, begin thinking about what your congregation can do or will continue to do to support HERO. Let’s have a conversation about how we can work together to support and ultimately pass HERO.

Just reply to this email and let me know you are ready!

In the spirit of equality,

Fran Watson headshot

Fran Watson
Houston Unites Faith Organizer

P.S. If you haven’t yet, make sure to “like” Houston Unites on Facebook and follow @Houston_Unites on Twitter for the latest in this historic campaign to defend Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance.

Posted in Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, TFN | 3 Comments

Redefining ‘Religious Liberty’ into Nothing?

Religious-righters are twisting and redefining “religious liberty” so much that the term itself is in danger of becoming almost meaningless. Fortunately, a growing number of mainstream religious leaders from around the state are calling out the nonsense. The latest battleground: public subsidies (such as vouchers) for religious schools.

The rabidly anti-gay, religious-right group Houston Area Pastor Council, which also goes by the name Texas Pastor Council and U.S. Pastor Council, is leading the effort to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). The group, led by one of Houston’s most vicious anti-gay activists, Dave Welch, claims that barring discrimination against people because of who they are or whom they love violates the religious freedom of people to, well, discriminate.

Then last week Welch’s group filed a brief with the Texas Supreme Court arguing that the failure of the state to provide taxpayer funding to faith-based schools is also a violation of religious freedom. The brief is for a major court long-running case on whether the way Texas funds its public schools violates the state Constitution. The Pastor Council argues, in part:

The total and complete exclusion of religious providers from the public education system severely implicates religious liberty, whereas their inclusion clearly does not violate religious liberty or the Establishment Clause per Zelman v.Harris, 536 U.S. 639 (2002). The parties have not brought this case as a religious liberty case. Consequently, while the issue of religious liberty is not directly before the Court, the exclusion of religious providers from the current system of public education severely implicates religious liberty under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the Texas Constitution and the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Just like the suggestion that discrimination is religious freedom, the argument that religious freedom requires government funding of faith-based institutions is absurd. It’s also dangerous to religious freedom itself.

In fact, Pastors for Texas Children, which includes more than 1,200 faith leaders from 500+ Texas churches of all denominations, is rightly arguing that public funding for faith-based schools would actually threaten religious liberty. From the group’s press release today:

God’s Word that is taught in our fine church schools needs no help from the State of Texas.

Government control always follows government dollars, whether in the form of vouchers or tuition tax credits. The last thing religious schools need is the oversight of governmental agencies. These schools were founded in the first place to have the freedom to teach without this regulation.

Religious liberty is a gift from Almighty God accorded to all people. This eternal and holy principle is expressed powerfully in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, expressly prohibiting government from making an “establishment of religion.”

Private school vouchers and tuition tax credits funding religious schools inevitably would support religious teaching contrary to certain individual citizens’ personal convictions, whether Baptist, Catholic, Hindu, Muslim, Wiccan, or atheist.

Pastors for Texas Children goes on to insist that Texas fully fund its public schools — something the Legislature has repeatedly refused to do. In fact, public schools are still struggling to deal with billions of dollars state lawmakers cut from public education in 2011. Pastors for Texas Children says the state’s failure to “make suitable provision” for public schools is a violation of the Texas Constitution. They’re right.

Advocates for giving public subsidies to private and religious schools, through vouchers or other schemes, seem just fine with the Legislature setting up public schools to fail by cutting their funding. Now they argue that sending tax dollars to faith-based schools is simply about religious freedom. Nonsense. The truth is that they’re simply looking for any argument that will help them dismantle public education.

Posted in Dave Welch, education, Houston Area Pastor Council, religious freedom, Texas Pastor Council, TFNEF, vouchers | 4 Comments

Texas Home-School Lobby Group Misleads Parents as It Promotes the Culture Wars

The Texas Home School Coalition is a religious-right front group more interested in promoting a political agenda and fighting the culture wars than in ensuring kids get a good education. An email today from the group’s leader, Tim Lambert, demonstrates that point pretty clearly.

The email to the group’s list touts a series of events around the state designed to rally opposition to protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people from discrimination. As we reported last month, the tour also targets “adversaries” who support access to safe and legal abortion care for women in Texas. Neither of these issues has a thing to do with homeschooling.

Lambert’s email today focuses mostly on opposing the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which includes protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity as well as race, sex, age, military status and other characteristics. Lambert’s email claims that the ordinance represents a “radical homosexual position,” essentially arguing that protecting people from discrimination somehow threatens freedom:

I hope you will come to one of these gatherings in your area and listen to men and women of faith who are challenging Christians to become engaged in the battle for our culture and to protect our freedom.

Lambert also argues that passage of HERO last year and decisions in the courts (presumably including the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples) are the result of Christians not voting:

This means that a majority who hold biblical positions on many of the issues that are now rejected by more and more court rulings in this country are choosing to not take part in the process of setting those policies, because they are not participating in choosing officials who make those policies. Simply put, those with traditional biblical and Judeo-Christian historical values are not voting.

Well, we have news for Lambert. Many Christians and other people of faith support HERO. They believe discrimination is morally wrong and that we should all treat others as we wish to be treated — with equality, respect and dignity. And they have been speaking out in increasing numbers, including during this year’s legislative session in Austin, in favor of equality for all Texans.

The Texas Home School Coalition, like other religious-right groups, is using faith as a political weapon to divide Texans. Parents who home-school their children should feel betrayed — because they have been. The religious-right activists who claim to have their interests in mind are really interested only in using them to advance an extreme and dangerous political agenda that harms others simply because of who they are, whom they love or the medical care they seek.

Posted in abortion, Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, Texas Home School Coalition, TFNEF, Tim Lambert | 3 Comments

Houstonians Will Be Voting FOR the Equal Rights Ordinance in November

Houston Unites, which supports the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance on the November ballot, just sent out the following press release. The Texas Freedom Network is a member of the Houston Unites coalition.

The Texas Supreme Court this morning ruled that the majority of Houstonians who support the city’s Equal Rights Ordinance will be casting a ballot “for” the measure to keep it on the books.

“We’re eager for the majority of Houstonians to vote ‘FOR’ keeping the city’s valuable Equal Rights Ordinance,” said Richard Carlbom, campaign manager for Houston Unites. “Discrimination based on race, disability, military status, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age is not a Houston value and has no place in this city. A vote FOR HERO is a vote for treating everyone fairly and equally under the law.”

The Houston City Council will be deciding the final ballot language next week.

Voters this fall will decide whether they continue to support ending legal discrimination in employment, housing, and in restaurants and shops based on race, age, disability, veteran status, gender identity or sexual orientation. More than half of the claims, according City of Houston’s Office of the Inspector General, filed under HERO when it was on the books were based on racial discrimination.

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Houston Unites is the coalition working to elevate the diversity of voices supporting HERO. The leading coalition partners include: ACLU of Texas, Equality Texas, Freedom For All Americans, Human Rights Campaign, NAACP Houston Branch and Texas Freedom Network.

Posted in Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, TFN | 1 Comment

Reckless Texas Politicians, Religious-Right Group Just Cost Taxpayers $44,000

Days after the U.S.  Supreme Court ruled that gay and lesbian couples have the freedom to marry, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a formal opinion claiming that public officials could use their religious beliefs as an excuse for refusing to issue marriage licenses to or conduct weddings for same-sex couples. The Plano-based, religious-right group Liberty Institute also rushed forward with its lawyers to defend the “religious liberty” of public officials refusing to do their taxpayer-funded jobs.

All of those reckless efforts to subvert the Supreme Court’s ruling just cost taxpayers in Hood County southwest of Fort Worth nearly $44,000.

On Monday Hood County Commissioners agreed to pay the attorney fees — $43,872.10 — for a gay couple who sued after the county clerk, Katie Lang, repeatedly refused to issue them a marriage license. She claimed that issuing the license would offend her religious beliefs. Liberty Institute’s lawyers defended her and even used the case as a fundraising tool.

Now taxpayers in Hood County have to pay the penalty for such irresponsibility. They have Lang, Paxton and Liberty Institute to thank for that. Maybe someone should ask Liberty Institute to cover the cost with the money they raised off the case.

Posted in Liberty Institute, marriage equality, TFNEF | 7 Comments

Yeah, Sure, Really Funny

Over the past two weeks, the world has been marking the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Japan and the end of World War II. This weekend, the Facebook page for Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller took the anniversary a step further and posted an image suggesting that the United States should duplicate the end of World War II by nuking the Muslim world:

SidMillerMuslimsPic

(Click on the image to enlarge it.)

The Houston Chronicle reports that the post went up on Commissioner Miller’s Facebook page late Sunday afternoon but was then pulled down around 11:15 a.m. today. It was shared from the Facebook page for The Patriots IV Drip 2.

The post includes a photograph of a mushroom cloud, the hashtags #noislamknowpeace and #COMETAKE, with the following text:

“Japan has been at peace with the U.S. since August 9, 1945. It’s time we made peace with the Muslim world”

A spokesperson for Commissioner Miller’s office says a staffer shared the image on the Facebook page and that it does not reflect Miller’s personal views.

But the Chronicle notes that Commissioner Miller has made anti-Muslim remarks in the past:

At a Texas Public Policy Foundation forum in January, Miller said he was kept up at night over “long-range concerns as I hold those two grandbabies on my lap. I have to wonder, when they have grandbabies to hold in their lap, will we be a socialist country? Will we be a Muslim country? Are we doing enough?”

Cue the “outrage” from the far right about “political correctness” — that’s the frequent defense when a right-wing politician (or staffer) does something dumb (and offensive) like this. In fact, before the post was removed from Miller’s Facebook page, commenters were already making light of it. Again from the Chronicle:

“24 empty missile tubes, a mushroom cloud and now it’s Miller time!” wrote a user named Michael Linder. Betty Miller wrote, “Time to drop another one but make sure that Obama,Clinton and Kerry are present.”

The Houston Chronicle article is here.

Posted in Islam, Sid Miller, TFNEF | 4 Comments

Thanks, Texas SBOE

When we say the State Board of Education has made Texas a laughingstock, we’re not kidding. Sunday’s Doonesbury cartoon strip:

Doonesbury

Posted in civil war, State Board of Education, TFNEF | 9 Comments

Texas GOPer Calls for Driving Gay People Out of Houston, Treating Them Like the Nazis in World War II

The campaign to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) became even more vile Thursday night when one of the anti-HERO campaign leaders insisted that gay and transgender people should be forced to leave Houston and even suggested that they face the same destruction the American military inflicted on Nazi Germany.

Christopher Hooks at the Texas Observer reported from the so-called “Faith Freedom Family Tour” event in a Houston hotel ballroom. When Steven Hotze took the podium, the head of the influential Conservative Republicans of Texas waved around a sword as he launched into a fiery — almost unhinged — attack on the LGBT community. From Hooks’ Observer article:

“Homofascists,” Hotze said, were enabled and appeased by those who treated their behavior as normal or acceptable. The indoctrination started in public schools, by design. “Remember: Homosexuals can’t reproduce. They have to recruit.”

Swift action was needed. “Drive them out of our city. I don’t want them in our city. Send them back to San Francisco.” No half-measures could be contemplated when dealing with the truly wicked. “Has anybody ever heard of the Nazis? Were they wicked? OK. What did we send our boys over to do in World War II? What did our preachers pray that would happen in World War II?”

They weren’t praying that the Germans would straighten up and fly right. “They prayed, ‘give our boys victory in battle,’” Hotze said. “Sometimes you have to do that when people are totally opposed to God like that, and wickedness rises up.”

You can  read the full Texas Observer piece here.

Hotze has been one of the leading opponents of HERO, which the City Council passed in May 2014. HERO bars discrimination in employment, housing and public services based on more than a dozen characteristics, including race, age, sex, military status, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. HERO opponents have succeeded in putting repeal of the ordinance on a November election ballot.

The campaign to support HERO, Houston Unites Against Discrimination, was launched at a press conference on Monday. The Texas Freedom Network is supporting the pro-HERO campaign. Click here to sign the pledge to support HERO and send a clear message to opponents: Discrimination has no place in Houston.

Posted in Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, LGBT issues, Steven Hotze, TFN | 9 Comments