SBOE Sends a Message: Texas Doesn’t Need Any Stinkin’ Qualifications for Our Textbook Reviewers!

Today the State Board of Education, yet again, made Texas look like an education backwater. Just two days ago the board refused to add special fact-check panels made up of university academics to the process for adopting textbooks in Texas. Today they refused to require that a majority of citizen textbook reviewers have even basic qualifications — like a college degree or teacher certification. We just sent out the following press release:


Two Days after Rejecting Fact-Check Panels for University Academics, Board Votes Down Proposal to Set Standards for Citizen Reviewers

State Board of Education today rejected a new proposal to set specific criteria for determining whether individuals are qualified to review textbooks submitted for adoption in Texas. Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller criticized the 8-6 vote against the proposal as yet another example of the board’s hostility to expertise and competence.

 “This board seems determined that textbook adoptions in Texas remain a three-ring circus,” Miller said. “It’s clear that board members are more interested in protecting their ability to appoint unqualified political activists to these panels than in ensuring that our kids’ textbooks are accurate.”

Just two days ago, the board on an 8-7 vote rejected a proposal to set up special panels made up of college and university academics to review textbooks for factual accuracy. Board members argued that existing panels of citizen reviewers were sufficient.

Today SBOE member Erika Beltran, D-Dallas, proposed that the board require that at least a majority of those citizen reviewers have education certification and teaching experience in three of the previous 10 years in a relevant field or hold a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field.

But even those qualifications were too much for opponents, who argued that they smacked of elitism and would open the door to “pointy-headed liberals from the University of Texas” determining whether textbook content is accurate. Opponents also argued that the proposal would make it harder for them to appoint individual reviewers they consider qualified even if those individuals don’t have teaching experience or a degree in a relevant field.

Posted in State Board of Education, textbooks, TFNEF | 6 Comments

Texas SBOE Refuses to Tighten Process for Ensuring Accuracy in Textbooks

The Texas State Board of Education, meeting in Austin today, rejected a common-sense proposal to keep errors out of public school textbooks.

TFN issued the following press release:

Board Votes 8-7 to Reject Establishing Scholar Panels for Reviewing Proposed Textbooks for Factual Errors

Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller had the following statement today following a vote by the State Board of Education against a proposal for setting up panels of college and university scholars whose sole responsibility would be to review proposed new textbooks for factual errors.

Miller said:

“With all the controversies that have made textbook adoptions in Texas look like a clown show, it’s mindboggling and downright embarrassing that the board voted this down. Instead of appointing qualified historians, scientists and mathematicians to review proposed textbooks for accuracy, board members are leaving it up to schoolchildren to do the fact checking.”

Miller noted that the SBOE’s current review process is designed to check only whether textbooks conform to state curriculum standards. Review panels report factual errors they might find, but they do not perform a systematic, cover-to-cover review of the textbooks for factual accuracy.

This fall the state was embarrassed when a Houston student found that a geography textbook adopted by the state board in 2014 describes slaves as African migrants brought to America as workers. The publisher is scrambling to correct the passage in its textbooks, which is already in classrooms.


The Texas Freedom Network is a nonpartisan, grassroots education and religious liberties watchdog based in Austin.

Posted in State Board of Education, TFNEF | 6 Comments

Research: At Least 100,000 Texas Women Have Attempted to Self-Induce Abortion

As lawmakers make it increasingly difficult for women to access safe, legal abortion care in the state, today researchers with the independent Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) released information showing that at least 100,000 Texas women have attempted to self-induce an abortion. TxPEP’s study briefs are available here and here. Following is today’s press release from TxPEP:

AUSTIN (November 17, 2015) — Today, the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) released first-of-its-kind research that finds at least 100,000 Texas women ages 18 to 49 (estimated to be 1.7% of Texas women of reproductive age) have ever attempted to end a pregnancy on their own without medical assistance. Other TxPEP research suggests self-induction may be more common in Texas compared to other states. This is the first time a statistic on self-induction in the general population has ever been calculated.

In an analysis of a statewide survey that controlled for sociodemographic factors, including age and reported history of abortion, researchers found that Latinas near the US-Mexico border and women who report barriers to accessing reproductive health care were significantly more likely to have attempted abortion self-induction themselves or know someone who had attempted to end a pregnancy as compared to non-Latinas in Texas or those who did not report barriers to reproductive health care.

Researchers believe that these two groups of women are likely to see the most direct increases in self-induced abortion rates should Texas’ HB2 law, a sweeping measure that imposes numerous restrictions on access to abortion, be fully implemented. Since HB2 was enacted in 2013, more than half of the facilities providing abortion care in Texas have closed. Last month, TxPEP released research revealing substantial increases in average wait times to schedule an appointment for an abortion– sometimes up to 20 days – at clinics in Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin.

Dr. Daniel Grossman, a TxPEP co-investigator and Professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, said:

“This is the latest body of evidence demonstrating the negative implications of laws like HB2 that pretend to protect women but in reality place them, and particularly women of color and economically disadvantaged women, at significant risk.

“As clinic-based care becomes harder to access in Texas, we can expect more women to feel that they have no other option and take matters into their own hands.”

The researchers also performed interviews with women who had attempted to self-induce an abortion in recent years in Texas. According to the study, a common thread among these women was that poverty layered upon one or more additional obstacles left them feeling that they had no other option. Almost all of the women interviewed contacted or considered contacting a clinic at some point during their abortion process. While there was no one reason that exclusively drove women to this outcome, four primary reasons for self-induction included: financial constraints to travel to a clinic or to pay for the procedure, local clinic closures, recommendation from a close friend or family member to self-induce, or efforts to avoid the stigma or shame of going to an abortion clinic, especially if they had had prior abortions.

Currently the United States Supreme Court is considering Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole to decide the fate of HB2. Should the Court decide to uphold the law, Texas will be left with only 10 abortion clinics in a state with 5.4 million women of reproductive age, and leave 500 miles between San Antonio and the New Mexico border without a single clinic.

About the Report

Data for this report comes from a study commissioned by TxPEP and conducted by GfK using its KnowledgePanel.  KnowledgePanel is a nationally representative, probability-based online non-volunteer access panel. GfK sampled households in the KnowledgePanel and then invited 1,397 non-institutionalized Texas-resident women between the ages of 18 and 49 to participate in the survey; 779 women completed it. Data collection took place over 5 weeks from December 2014 to January 2015. In addition, TxPEP researchers performed interviews with 18 women who reported attempting abortion self-induction within the prior five years while living in Texas. Women were recruited from abortion clinics or as part of interviews performed in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

About TxPEP

The Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) is a five-year, comprehensive effort to document and analyze the impact of the measures affecting reproductive health passed by the 82nd and 83rd Texas Legislatures. The project team includes researchers from The University of Texas at Austin’s Population Research Center; Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California, San Francisco; Ibis Reproductive Health; and the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

The release of this research comes just days after the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will hear a challenge to a 2013 Texas law — House Bill 2 — that imposes onerous and medically unnecessary restrictions on health care clinics that provide abortion services. Since the passage of HB 2, the number of abortion clinics in Texas has dropped from 41 to 19. Fully implementing the law would lead to the closure of half of the remaining abortion clinics across the state.

Medical experts have pointed out repeatedly that the restrictions in HB 2 are medically unnecessary. Supporters of that law and other anti-abortion measures passed by state lawmakers have boasted that they are trying to end women’s access to abortion care in Texas.

Posted in abortion, TFNEF | 23 Comments

Engaging Religious Difference

We asked Tiffany Tuett, founder and director of the Institute for Diversity and Civic Life, to write a blog post about a special workshop next week in Austin about how religious leaders and activists from diverse faith communities can work together despite religious differences.


Community leaders and activists working across religious difference want to mobilize the strengths of diverse communities to affect positive social change. At its best, interfaith engagement can foster a more just and inclusive society where diverse individuals and communities feel seen, heard, and valued. However, even those working with the best intentions can stumble on cross-cultural challenges and misunderstandings. Effective work with diverse religious communities requires more than just understanding different religious beliefs and customs. It requires an awareness of the social context in which diverse religions exist and the dynamics of power and privilege that are always present in interfaith encounters.

This Friday and Saturday, Nov. 20 – 21, the Institute for Diversity and Civic Life will hold a workshop, sponsored with Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, to explore these issues: “Engaging Religious Difference.” Aimed at religious leaders and activists working with religious communities, this dynamic two-day workshop will blend lectures, group discussions, and experiential exercises with multimedia technologies to explore complex patterns of inclusion and exclusion.

Participants will develop cultural fluency, beginning by reflecting on their own social locations—how their circumstances, experiences, and assumptions affect the ways they interpret differences. From there, we’ll look at the history of religion and dynamics of diversity in the American public sphere. We’ll use anti-bias and anti-racism methods to explore interfaith activism from a civic perspective, giving special attention to social structures of inequality that impact religious communities. We’ll examine issues of religious freedom along with religious discrimination, such as Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

On the second day of the workshop, we’ll focus on developing tools, techniques, and strategies for navigating religious and cultural diversity as well as building coalitions and alliances. By the end of the workshop, participants will have gained an effective framework that use to foster equity in engagement among people of all religions along skills for strategies for addressing conflicts and creating inclusive spaces.

The workshop will be facilitated by Dr. Christine J. Hong, Assistant Professor at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and Dr. Tiffany Puett, Director of the Institute for Diversity and Civic Life.

There’s still time to register here.

Posted in religion, TFNEF | Leave a comment

The Week in Quotes (Nov. 8 – 14)

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

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Truth a Casualty in Attacks on Dallas Nondiscrimination Ordinance

Fresh off a vote last week in Houston to repeal a sweeping nondiscrimination ordinance, religious-righters and cynical politicians have turned their guns on a similar 13-year-old ordinance in Dallas. And once again they’ve decided that the truth won’t be an obstacle.

Back in 2002, the Dallas City Council added to the City Code an ordinance barring discrimination based on, among other characteristics, sexual orientation and gender identity. This week the City Council voted unanimously to make essentially a technical change to the ordinance, moving gender identity into its own category rather than lumping it in with sexual orientation. The change added no new protections or enforcement provisions to the ordinance.

Almost immediately, however, the right-wing group Texas Values (an affiliate of Colorado-based Focus on the Family) shrieked that the City Council had approved a “bathroom bill.” The group’s gay-obsessed president, Jonathan Saenz, repeated the same misleading propaganda about sexual predators in women’s bathrooms that was used to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. Moreover, he claimed that the council took the vote in a “closed door meeting” and “without public input.”

None of that is true. First, the council did not pass a new nondiscrimination ordinance or anything that substantively changes the existing ordinance. Moreover, there have been no cases in which men have used that ordinance — in its 13-year history — to enter public restrooms to harass or assault women. None of the scores of other cities and states that have passed similar measures have reported such problems either. In fact, extremists like Saenz have been unable to point to even a single example of someone misusing a nondiscrimination law to harm a woman or anyone else in a public bathroom.

In addition, the Dallas City  Council did not act in secret. The vote came in an open meeting after a year of public discussion. In fact, the process began after 77 percent of Dallas voters in November 2014 approved an amendment to the City Charter that included protections for city employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity. So Dallas voters have clearly shown that they support these nondiscrimination protections.

Even so, some state politicians have been repeating the lies promoted by Texas Values. Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who helped fund the effort to repeal the Houston ordinance, falsely claims that the Dallas City Council acted hastily and without public input.  State Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, has made the same false accusation. And they’re both echoing the same ugly and misleading scare tactics about men in women’s bathrooms. (Huffines has posted on his website a petition calling for repeal of the nondiscrimination protections.)

Jared Woodfill, the odious former chair of the Harris County Republican Party who led efforts to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, is also getting in the game. Woodfill is calling on the Texas GOP to move its 2016 state convention from Dallas to Houston. No doubt, Woodfill hopes the issue will help his campaign to be elected chair of the state party.

But supporters of the Dallas nondiscrimination ordinance are pushing back hard against the lies. On Thursday, Jonathan Saenz repeated those lies on Glenn Beck’s The Blaze network. But Dallas City Councilmember Philip Kingston, also appearing on the show, didn’t let Saenz get away with it:

“That’s just flat false. That’s a lie. You’re just making stuff up at this point. Also false. That’s like 100 percent made-up. That’s crazy.”

Kingston is right. It has become entirely clear that supporters of discrimination will say anything — regardless of the truth — in their efforts to promote fear and hate toward LGBT Texans.

Posted in Don Huffines, Jonathan Saenz, Texas Values, TFNEF | 6 Comments

Ted Cruz Cozies Up to ‘Kill the Gays’ Pastor

It seems that the Republican Party has become so venomously hostile toward LGBT people that the party’s presidential candidates can attend — apparently without consequence — events at which speakers insist that gay people should be put to death. Ted Cruz, a presidential candidate as well as GOP senator from Texas, attended such an event in Iowa last week along with fellow candidates Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.

Our friends at Right Wing Watch report what happened at the National Religious Liberties Conference, which featured right-wing pastor Kevin Swanson of Colorado:

“During his remarks, Swanson reiterated his view that both the Old and New Testament require the death penalty for the crime of homosexuality, as well as his position that any Christian who attends a gay wedding can only do so in order to hold up a sign informing the couple that they ought to be put to death.

He drove home his point with a passionate declaration that if he ever found out that his own sons was gay and that son invited him to his wedding, he would show up covered in “sackcloth and ashes” and then smear himself in cow manure as he sat on the steps of the church and wailed lamentations.”

Check out the Right Wing Watch video from Swanson’s speech (emphasis added in the transcription below):

“There are instances in which both the Old Testament and New Testament speak to the matter with unbelievable clarity. And friends, and this is the highest level, the very highest level of clarity where the word of God has spoken, both Old Testament and New Testament. Ought not to be any debate about it whatsoever about it. And you know what that sin is. It’s the sin of homosexuality. Romans 1, First Corinthians, Chapter 6, First Timothy, I think it’s Chapter 4, and of course Leviticus 18 and Leviticus 20. The word of God speaks there. In fact, in Romans Chapter 1, Paul affirms that this particular sin is worthy of death, in Romans, Chapter 1. So granted, there are varying levels of clarity/relevance relating to ethics, but still the Old Testament and the New Testament I believe speak with authority, and we ought to receive it.”

At one point in his speech, Swanson almost seemed to lose control:

“There are families, we’re talking Christian families, pastors’ families, elders’ families from good, godly churches. Their sons are rebelling, hanging out with homosexuals and getting married, and the parents are invited. What would you do if that was the case? Here is what I would do: sackcloth and ashes at the entrance to the church and I’d sit in cow manure and I’d spread it all over my body. That’s what I would do, and I’m not kidding, I’m not laughing.

“I’m grieving, I’m mourning, I’m pointing out the problem! It’s not a gay time! These are the people with the sores, the gaping sores, the sores that are pussy and gross, and people are coming in and carving happy faces on the sores! That’s not a nice thing to do. Don’t you dare carve happy faces on open, pussy sores! Don’t you ever do that. Don’t you ever do that. I tell you don’t do it! Sackcloth and ashes. This is what America needs. America needs to hear the message. We are messed up.”

As vile as all this was, Cruz, Huckabee and Jindal had little or nothing to say about it. This is how MSNBC host Rachel Maddow describes it:

“I’m not rounding up to the nearest scary thing. It really was a ‘kill the gays’ call to arms. This was a conference about the necessity of the death penalty as a necessity for homosexuality … part of the way [Huckabee, Jindal, and Cruz] are campaigning for president is by attending a ‘kill the gays’ rally. And I don’t know if that is considered to be a scandal anymore in Republican politics.”

It’s not, apparently.

Posted in LGBT issues, Ted Cruz, TFNEF | 4 Comments

Jared “No Men in Women’s Bathrooms” Woodfill Defends Guy in Bathroom Full of Women

Jared Woodfill, the former head of the Harris County Republican Party and one of the activists who led the charge against the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), doesn’t want men in women’s bathrooms. Except if those men are giving him money. Then it’s apparently all cool.

Via the Houston Press:

Ten years ago, at a pool party at a private home, seven women went into the master bathroom to change into their bathing suits. Following them were three drunk men, including local tech-company owner BJ Farmer, who sat in the shower, took out their cell phones, and began snapping pictures while the women changed. Earlier this year, one of those women, Andrea Villarreal, sued Farmer after his ex-wife found the pictures on his laptop, shortly before their divorce proceedings, and brought them to Villarreal’s attention.

Guess who is representing Farmer in that lawsuit. Yep, Woodfill.

During a deposition earlier this year, Farmer admitted taking the pictures and to “doing this on more than one occasion, and to having pictures of himself fondling an unconscious nude woman at another party,” according to the Houston Press.

Ironic, isn’t it? Woodfill — who likes to talk a big game about morality — and his allies used a lie about “men in women’s bathrooms” to successfully convince enough Houston voters to strike HERO down in last week’s city elections. Yet here he is, enriching himself by taking money to defend a guy who admitted to, on more than one occasion, taking pictures of women while they changed clothes in a bathroom. How moral of him.

Posted in Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, TFNEF | 3 Comments

Just How Extreme Are They?

Bradlee Dean, an anti-gay extremist, blogger, Christian rocker and founder of a Minnesota-based “youth ministry,” hates President Obama. That’s par for the course when it comes to religious-righters today. But this week his hatred has morphed into an even more sinister paranoia about Obama and the U.S. military.

In a blog post published on Sunday, Dean asks ominously whether last weekend’s nighttime test launch of a submarine-based ballistic missile off the coast of California was “a message to the American people.” He then pivots to an alternative explanation — that the test was a message to China and Russia about U.S. military capabilities. As with other right-wingers, though, Dean even suggests that President Obama is up to no good:

“Let us certainly hope that World War III does not start any time soon, but without a doubt our ‘leaders’ are becoming increasingly reckless, and at some point there may be an ‘accident.’ … I don’t know about you, but I have a really bad feeling about what is ahead. Our government is acting very irrationally, and both Russia and China are becoming very angry with us.”

Actually, the Los Angeles Times reports that these missile tests are routine — occurring annually on the West Coast and the East Coast near Florida.

Even so, paranoid reader comments to Dean’s post reveal just how much his right-wing fans despise their country’s own president. One suggests that the government might be preparing to use nukes to create an electromagnetic pulse that that destroys the country’s electrical power grid:

“It wouldn’t surprise me if they were testing the abillity to EMP the country in the midst of a major gun grab by the UN.”

Other commenters tossed about various slurs. Here’s one calling the president a “sodomite negro”:

Maybe they were saying this is all we got America! The sodomite negro castrated the military and we just wanted to show you we only got missiles left.

So what we are saying is that you better not let the sodomite negro take your guns away for the coming invasion. We know that’s how you will feel if we scare’d you a bit at night so ya’ll can see.

Didn’t most of you think that lucky we got guns if that was aliens or a Chinese Manapua coming this way? So don’t let the negro ever take your guns away America. It’s coming…….

Another calls him a “half breed”:

“Anybody seen the half breed’s family lately. I wonder if they are hiding out under a mountain or an airport somewhere….”

Just another day on the wacky right.

Posted in extremism, TFNEF | 8 Comments

The Week in Quotes (Nov. 1 – 7)

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

continue reading »

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