Houston Anti-Gay Leader Issues Chilling Call in Effort to Repeal Anti-Discrimination Ordinance

Dave Welch, head of the far-right Houston Area Pastor Council and one of the leading voices of anti-gay hate in Texas, is calling for “imprecatory prayers” as Houston officials review petition signatures from supporters of overturning the city’s new anti-discrimination ordinance.

Imprecatory prayers are those that ask God to burden, curse or even destroy wicked individuals and institutions. They typically are tied to the Bible’s imprecatory Psalms, such as Psalm 109:9 (“May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.”) and Psalm 137:9 (“How blessed will be the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.”).

In an article emailed to supporters over the weekend, Welch writes that city officials are nearly done determining whether there are enough valid petition signatures to put repeal of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance on the November ballot. He calls on repeal supporters to pray while city officials finish that work:

“PRAY - imprecatory prayers for the Lord to oversee every detail and every person involved, to expose any impropriety, to bind spiritual forces of darkness in the city and to send confusion into the enemy camp.”

We’ve seen more and more prominent religious-righters call for imprecatory prayer in recent years. In 2009, for example, California pastor Wiley Drake issued a call for imprecatory prayers for the death for President Obama. That same year, former Navy chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt, a religious-right hero, urged followers to offer imprecatory prayers calling for the death of the Rev. Barry Lynn, the head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Two years ago, far-right evangelical leader Scott Lively celebrated the destruction of a strip club in Springfield, Massachusetts, as an answer to his calls for imprecatory prayers to “re-Christianize” that city.

We’re not sure what in the world Welch means with his calls for imprecatory prayers regarding the HERO repeal effort. But whether or not he really wants the destruction of anyone (or any institution) in Houston, his call is chilling and dark. History is full of disturbed people who have done horrible things in the twisted belief that they were carrying out God’s will.

The Houston City Council passed HERO in May. HERO bars discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation, gender and gender identity, race, religion, military status and other characteristics. City officials have until early next week to announce whether Welch and his allies gathered enough valid petition signatures to send HERO’s repeal to voters.

 

Posted in civil and equal rights, Dave Welch, Houston Area Pastor Council, Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, LGBT issues, TFN | Leave a comment

The Week in Quotes (July 13 – 26)

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

continue reading »

Posted in The Week in Quotes | 5 Comments

Texas Rising: What It’s All About

Texas Rising

By James Carneiro (writer bio)
TFN Student Activist

The state of Texas isn’t exactly known for its level of political engagement.

It ranks last in civic engagement and many people don’t even know who their state representative is. The conventional wisdom says most people will stay at home while a tiny though highly powerful bloc of right-wing voters will make it to the polls in November. Not surprisingly, this has created a state where birth control is non-existent in health textbooks, the separation of church and state is questioned in the social studies curriculum and close-minded representatives try to pass bills defunding gender and sexuality centers on college campuses. And the above nonsense doesn’t even come close to the far-right backlash on reproductive rights. If we continue on this path, family planning centers could become only a memory.

This is why progressives need to fight back. In response to the right-wing onslaught, the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund has unveiled the Texas Rising campaign, a blueprint for capturing the energy and amplifying the voices of a rising young Texas electorate. The statistics make the importance of young voters crystal clear: 24 percent of eligible Texas voters are millennials, between the ages of 18 and 29.

But this is the part that will blow your mind: If every millennial voted, they could determine every policy initiative discussed in the Texas Legislature. Better yet, they could elect a new generation of forward-thinking people to public office. And just like that, a better Texas is born.

But this untapped power is useless unless it can be properly organized. The Texas Freedom Network Education Fund (TFNEF) is making this happen by educating young Texans on the issues impacting them and their community, providing them with the tools needed to participate in our democracy, and developing the emerging generation of diverse, progressive community leaders. TFNEF has partnered with Wellstone Action to make grassroots organizers out of young progressives through a series of trainings across the state. There have been five trainings so far, each one at a public university. The curriculum gives students the skills they’ll need to build voter engagement campaigns on their respective campuses. It teaches them how to tailor their message to young people, how to register this demographic to vote and how to get them to show up at the polls in November.

Texas Rising’s organizing strategy is derived from the Wellstone Triangle — a theory of organizing that TFN strongly believes in. The Wellstone Triangle uses a holistic approach to organizing that engages young leaders throughout the entire political process. From grassroots community organizing to public policy advocacy to electoral politics, this model covers it all.

Because the Texas Legislature meets every other year, Texas Rising has an annual task. When the Lege is not in session, we’ll focus on registering and getting young voters out to the polls. When the legislators are gathered in Austin, we’ll lobby our representatives and senators. Throughout this cycle, we’ll build a grassroots base to support the work for the long haul.

To those who are skeptical about young people being invested in politics, our experience has shown otherwise. During Texas Rising’s spring 2014 trainings, more than 100 students participated and drafted campaign plans on the spot. When these students returned to campus, they set up tables in the quad and registered entire classrooms and dorms of their peers. They mobilized their friends around the happenings at the State Board of Education (SBOE), organized to help pass the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), and worked to change the cultural stigma on abortion.

This summer, starting July 31, more than 40 student leaders from all over the state will gather in Austin for the Texas Rising Summer Institute, a four day training dedicated to issue education and Get Out The Vote (GOTV) organizing. They’ll show how student action is the solution to the state’s problems. Working with the media, online organizing, recruitment and retention will be explained. Each participant will help draft a GOTV plan for their campus. An entire day will be spent on the 1 in 3 campaign, an effort to end the stigma surrounding abortion through the power of story telling.

The work doesn’t end when the conference does. Students will continue to register voters and ensure they’re equipped with the correct form of voter ID. Then we’ll shift gears in October to concentrate on driving voter turnout.

If you’re still nervous about pulling this off, you don’t have to worry. TFN has been organizing young people for more than eight years in a state politically hostile to the values of us young progressives. With a track record like that, you know you’re in good hands.

TFN believes in young people. If it didn’t, a plan like this wouldn’t be attempted. When someone becomes engaged in the political process at a young age, he or she will stick with it – likely for a lifetime. This is especially important when considering the state’s rapidly changing demographics. Texas is getting younger and more diverse. If we can harness the power of this new generation, we can create a healthier, kinder and more tolerant state.

From El Paso to Austin to the Rio Grande Valley, the young folks are rising in the Lone Star State.

Posted in Texas Rising, TFNEF | Leave a comment

#ThrowBackTexas: Jon Stewart Explains the Unexplainable at the State Board of Education

ThrowBackTexasIt’s #ThrowbackThursday, and rather than posting pictures of the horrible outfit you wore 20 years ago, why not drop a little knowledge on your friends?

Right now the State Board of Education is trying to #ThrowbackTexas to a scarier time. In the alternate version of history promoted by some board members, slavery wasn’t that big of a deal, the separation of church and state was never in the Constitution and women just sat back and waited for men to give them the right to vote.

Yes, there are SBOE members who actually believe this. And this year those board members will decide what history textbooks Texas public school students will use for much of the next decade.

TFN wants the SBOE to adopt textbooks that teach facts and honest history, not the personal beliefs of politicians. That’s why we’re starting a #ThrowbackTexas weekly feature, giving you insights into the worldview that far-right SBOE members want to inject into our kids’ history textbooks.

First in our series is a Daily Show clip from 2010 that excoriates the SBOE in a way that only Jon Stewart can. Stewart was talking about the board’s revision of social studies curriculum standards for public schools. Publishers used those standards when they wrote new textbooks they submitted for consideration by the SBOE this year.

If you want to keep up with the SBOE’s plans to #ThrowbackTexas, make sure you’re following TFN on Facebook and Twitter.

And be sure to tune in every Thursday.

Posted in social studies adoption (2014), TFNEF | 2 Comments

Marco Rubio Says Opponents of Marriage Equality Are Victims of ‘Intolerance’

Religious-righters and allied politicians who are unyielding opponents of marriage equality for LGBT people have a peculiar view of “intolerance.”

In a speech today at Catholic University in the nation’s capital, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, complained that he and others who reject legal recognition of same-sex marriages are unfairly called haters and  bigots:

“Even before this speech is over, I will be attacked as someone who is a hater or a bigot or someone who is anti-gay.”

He went on to acknowledge that gay and lesbian Americans have faced discrimination, but — insisting that “tolerance is a two-way street” – he suggested that opponents of marriage equality also face persecution for their beliefs:

“There is a growing intolerance on this issue,” Rubio said of those who back same-sex marriages. “This intolerance in the name of tolerance is hypocrisy.”

Seriously, Sen. Rubio?

Opponents like Sen. Rubio haven’t just said they reject same-sex marriage. They have succeeded in passing sweeping constitutional bans in many states — including Texas and Florida. Here’s the amendment added to the Texas Constitution in 2005 (Article 1, Section 32):

Sec. 32. MARRIAGE. (a) Marriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman. (b) This state or a political subdivision of this state may not create or recognize any legal status identical or similar to marriage.

Similarly, a Florida Constitutional amendment in 2008 (Article 1, Section 27) defines marriage as only a union of one man and one woman and says that “no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized.” Such bans clearly go far beyond addressing the supposed worries of opponents who see marriage itself as a special institution. They also bar legal recognition of any legal status for same-sex couples, including civil unions or domestic partnerships.

Federal courts have ruled that many state bans, including in Texas, violate the U.S. Constitution. (The Texas ruling has been stayed pending appeal.) But opponents also want to amend the federal Constitution to ban same-sex unions in all of the states.

So tell us again, Sen. Rubio: Who are intolerant people here? Are they those who believe same-sex couples deserve the right to marry and have their relationships treated equally with others under the law? Or are the intolerant ones those who insist that government enforce their own personal biases by barring any legal recognition for relationships they don’t like?

Posted in LGBT issues, TFNEF | 3 Comments

Be a Christian or GTFO?

Photo by Michael Cavazos, Longview News-Journal

First, let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: TFN does not now nor has it ever had a position on immigration.

What TFN does have a position on is the First Amendment and the freedom it gives anyone, regardless of immigration status, to practice the faith of their choice or no faith at all.

Now to this, a disheartening article on a town hall meeting hosted by Republican state Rep. David Simpson in his east Texas hometown of Longview last night.

The story is full of crazy.

Simpson might be a tea party hero with lots of cred among conservatives, but he argued for compassion toward the unaccompanied children who have entered the United States to escape violence in their home countries. His constituents, on the other hand, are another story. They angrily accused the immigrant children of bringing with them a host of diseases, including leprosy, tuberculosis, influenza, etc. One went as far as saying that the children “are bleeding Texas (Democrat) blue.”

But the most disheartening comment came from an audience member the Longview paper identified as Thomas Rolland. Here’s that part of the story:

“Don’t take what we say personally,” Rolland told Simpson. “We need our borders protected. We need a lot of things, but what we don’t need is more people at the trough. These people are not coming in with a good, Christian heart. Most of them are criminals, anyway.”

Since when is Christianity a requirement in the United States? Moreover, how does Mr. Rolland know what’s in the hearts of these children? And if what’s required to stay in this country is a “good, Christian heart,” then Mr. Rolland just made the case for his own deportation.

Posted in immigration, TFNEF | 8 Comments

Religious-Right Groups Demand Freedom to Discriminate

Religious-right groups are, predictably, spitting venom over President Obama’s executive order barring discrimination against LGBT employees of the federal government and government contractors. The executive order, which the president announced on Monday, does not include an exemption allowing employers to discriminate for religious reasons.

The executive order did keep a provision from a 2002 executive order signed by President George W. Bush that allows religiously affiliated contractors to continue to give preference to workers of a certain religion. But religious-right groups also want employers to be able to fire or refuse to hire LGBT people and claim religious beliefs as the reason. (What about employers who have religious objections to women who work outside the home? Or white supremacists who base their hatred of racial minorities and Jews at least partly on their religious beliefs about what the Bible teaches?)

The executive order does not bar anti-LGBT discrimination by all employers — just by the government and contractors who do business with the government. A broader discrimination ban would require action by Congress. A weak anti-discrimination bill, the Employment Nondiscrimation Act (ENDA), has passed the Senate, but House Republicans have refused to take up the measure. A growing number of gay rights and civil liberties groups oppose the Senate version of ENDA anyway because it includes a religious exemption allowing discrimination against LGBT people.

Religious-right groups denounced the lack of a religious exemption in President Obama’s executive order.

The fanatics at Texas Values, the Austin lobby arm of Plano-based Liberty Institute and one of the most viciously anti-gay groups in the Lone Star State, revealed – as usual — their obsession with sex. The group’s president, Jonathan Saenz, charged that President Obama was “placing sexual behavior ahead of the common good.” He even suggested the executive order is President Obama’s retribution against Christians after the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling against the federal mandate that employee health insurance plans include coverage for birth control:

“President Obama’s executive order allows sexual behavior to trump Americans’ religious freedom rights. People of faith should not be punished simply because of the religious freedom ruling in the Hobby Lobby case against Obamacare.”

The American Family Association, which the Southern Poverty Law Center calls an anti-LGBT hate group, sent out an email this morning charging that the executive order “takes away religious freedoms from Christians”:

Obama’s love affair with homosexuality will impact some 24,000 companies with 28 million workers, or one-fifth of the U.S. workforce. More alarming, his order discriminates against Christians.

The AFA email also claims the executive order is unconstitutional, ignoring the nation’s long history of such orders. President Truman, for example, ended racial segregation in the U.S. military through Executive Order 9981. But groups like AFA and Texas Values don’t let facts get in the way of promoting hate and discrimination.

Posted in civil and equal rights, Jonathan Saenz, LGBT issues, Texas Values, TFNEF | Leave a comment

Who Will Stand? No, Seriously. Who?

TFN Insider is pleased to present this guest post from Rev. Michael Diaz, Director of Connections at Resurrection MCC Church in Houston. Rev. Diaz is a proud voice for social justice in his community for a host of issues, including equality for LGBTQ citizens.

Lunch with Liberty Counsel
Rev. Michael Diaz

Religious-right propaganda distributed at the event by Liberty Counsel.

Late last Thursday I received an invitation to a “Who Will Stand?” pastors meeting at Grace Community Church in Houston hosted by Liberty Counsel. It was short notice but my interest was piqued by the speaker line-up: “Governor Mike Huckabee, self-taught historian David Barton, Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver, and many, many others.”

About 10 people were present, and maybe five were actual local church pastors with a few bringing their significant others. That’s right, only 10 people showed up in a room set up for 80 – with a catered lunch from Chick-fil-a boxes, of course! I must say the small turn-out surprised me, considering the build-up given to the event.

The speakers “appeared” on a 70-minute DVD designed to mobilize “Christians” to vote in November. Their main message centered upon the fact that churches are allowed to lobby politically, and that no church has ever lost their tax exempt status from the IRS for lobbying. Mr. David Barton gave more revisionist history about “England attacking all preachers in the 18th Century, and that’s why America was founded as a Christian nation.” Did the English monarchy (a Protestant monarchy!) really attack ALL preachers, including those in the Church of England? One of the speakers admitted the “religious right” is no more, and that’s why there’s a need for “Christians” to vote.

The meeting ended with a song about standing up and fighting, defending our “Christian” nation against “secular socialists.” Nice try.

I was surprised no one was present from the Houston Area Pastor’s Council, except for the infamous Kendall Baker, the epitome of Christian values. It made me wonder again just how it is that the “religious right” has created such fear among progressives.

In any case, I took the meeting message to heart: Who will stand in November? Whose voice will be heard from the voting booth when Texas’ future leadership is decided and measures like the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance stand or fall based on turn-out? As a person of faith, I plan to do all I can to ensure it is the voice of inclusion my congregants and Texas’ leaders hear.

Posted in civil and equal rights, LGBT issues, religious right, Texas Freedom Network Education Fund | 6 Comments

Watch: Bill Moyers Interview with TFN Founder Cecile Richards

Bill Moyers hosted TFN founder and current Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards on the latest episode of his PBS show to discuss the religious-right crusade against reproductive rights. Here, a synopsis of the show followed by the full invterview:

Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court’s landmark decision establishing a woman’s right to an abortion, was issued 41 years ago. Despite consistent public opinion to the contrary, conservatives and the religious right have patiently and relentlessly campaigned against it for decades. And recently, their efforts are finding some success. Two major rulings by the Supreme Court this last session limited health insurance coverage for contraception and gave protesters increased rights to demonstrate outside abortion clinics. Several states — especially in the South — in the name, legislators say, of women’s health, have passed regulations that creatively use technicalities to force clinics to close.

Posted in abortion, Cecile Richards, TFN | Leave a comment

Remember the Alamo: TX GOP Platform — Conspiracy Theory Edition

Every two years the Texas Freedom Network takes a look at the Texas Republican Party platform because, as we say around here, that platform has become a biennial exercise in extremism.

For several cycles now, the platform has been co-opted by far-right activists, and each platform can tend to look like a love letter to the extreme right of the state party.

You can read the 2014 TFN analysis here.

This year’s platform, adopted at the state party’s June convention, was given lots of press for a controversial plank on “reparative therapy,” a form of “treatment” that supposedly turns gay people straight. Professional medical associations have deemed the therapy to be harmful, abusive quackery, and some state governments have even moved to bar its use.

But the platform still has some hidden gems that didn’t get as many headlines. This year, for example, the party wants to make sure the United Nations keeps its hands off the Alamo. Here is a plank that was added to the 2014 Texas GOP Platform:

United Nations World Heritage Sites – We oppose the transfer of the Alamo and the other Franciscan missions to the United Nations. We urge the Texas General Land Office to respect the hallowed ground of the Alamo and what it means to the people of Texas. We support maintaining control of these historic sites in Texas hands, and we oppose granting jurisdiction and sovereignty over Texas’ cultural sites to any international body.

We’re giving the Alamo to the U.N? What an outrage, you say. Yes, yes it would be an outrage. It would be an outrage … if it were true.

A quick Google search will point you to the genesis of this plank: a tea partier with an email account.

Last September former San Antonio Tea Party President George Rodriguez sent an email with the subject line, “The New Battle of the Alamo,” and warning that the Alamo could fall under the control of the United Nations.

What was actually happening is that the Alamo was up for nomination as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site. The designation is simply a recognition that a site is of value to humanity, and it should be protected and preserved. Not radical stuff. We’re willing to bet that most mainstream Texans would welcome such a recognition not just of the Alamo, but of other Texas monuments.

But back in tea party land the story, baseless paranoia and all, was being forwarded. It festered and eventually wound up on Infowars and other right-wing blogs where many conspiracy theories go to be famous for 15 minutes before dying.

This story didn’t die, though. It survived long enough that even Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, a Republican then running for lieutenant governor, had to knock down the ridiculous claim, calling it “horse hockey.”

It has been almost a year since Rodriguez sent that email, and the story still lives. Thanks to the Texas GOP platform, which is willing to give a nod and a wink to conspiracy theorists like birthers, we’re guaranteed that the story will live on for at least two more years.

That’s because in today’s state GOP, all conspiracy theories are welcome, no supporting evidence required.

Posted in Republican Party of Texas, TFN | 4 Comments