The Week in Quotes (April 19 – 25)

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

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TFN Statement on House Committee Passage of HB 4105

The following is a statement from Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller following today’s approval of HB 4105 by the Texas House State Affairs Committee. HB 4105 is designed to subvert a potential U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. It would bar public funding for, and bar state and local officials from, licensing or recognizing same-sex marriages in any way, regardless of the Supreme Court’s ruling. Miller said:

“No one should be fooled into thinking that Texas isn’t constitutionally bound by rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court. Rulings decades ago striking down school segregation and the ban on interracial marriage should be evidence enough. So this bill really represents a legislative temper tantrum that would lead to costly lawsuits the state would almost certainly lose. And it would thrill people in Indiana who could finally point to another state as the poster child for passing laws that discriminate against people because of who they are and whom they love.”

Posted in 2015 Texas Legislature, LGBT issues, marriage equality, TFN | 4 Comments

TFN, ACLU of Texas Launch Initiative Opposing Bills That Allow the Use of Religion to Discriminate

Today the Texas Freedom Network and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas are announcing a joint initiative — Texans Equal Under the Law — to oppose laws that allow people and organizations to use religion to discriminate. This announcement comes as the Texas House Committee on State Affairs considers yet another proposed bill that turns the principle of religious freedom on its head by allowing faith to be used a weapon to harm people. We just sent out the following press release about that bill and Texans Equal Under the Law:

A bill under consideration in the Texas House State Affairs Committee today would give religiously affiliated entities like hospitals and child welfare organizations authority to discriminate against almost any Texas family, two of the state’s leading religious liberties organizations warn.

“This is yet another example of an ill-conceived bill that pretends to protect religious freedom but in truth opens the doors to real harm,” said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network. “And it invites to Texas the same uproar and condemnation we’ve seen with similar bills in Indiana and other states.”

Supporters portray House Bill 3567 by state Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney, as simply protecting clergy from performing marriages that conflict with their religious beliefs. But the Constitution and Texas law already provide that protection, said Rebecca Robertson, legal and policy director for the ACLU of Texas.

“More troubling is that this bill goes much further,” Robertson said. “It would allow any religiously affiliated entity to pick and choose which lawful marriages it will recognize for any purpose. That would open the door to discrimination even in secular contexts, not just against same-sex couples, but also against interfaith couples, couples that include a previously divorced spouse, and even interracial couples.”

The Rev. Kyle Walker, pastor at Faith Presbyterian Church in Austin, echoed concerns that the bill flips the principle of religious freedom on its head.

“No pastor today is forced to perform a wedding that violates his or her religious beliefs, and our conscience is already protected under the law,” Walker said. “This bill is unnecessary and allows discrimination in the name of religion, in the name of God.”

HB 3567 would permit discrimination in a variety of secular circumstances. For example:

  • A religiously affiliated adoption agency could refuse to place a child with an interfaith couple, regardless of the best interests of the child.
  • A religious hospital could deny a legally married man the ability to make medical decisions for his spouse on the grounds that he was previously divorced.
  • A faith-based social service organization that accepts tax dollars—like a homeless shelter or food bank—could decline to serve interracial families.
  • A religious university could refuse to file federal tax forms for an employee in a legally recognized same-sex marriage.

TFN and the ACLU of Texas together have launched Texans Equal Under Law, an initiative that opposes HB 3567 and other legislation that would allow individuals and organizations to use religion to discriminate:

Posted in 2015 Texas Legislature, equality, LGBT issues, religious freedom, TFN | 1 Comment

Lt. Gov’s Advisory Panel Says Gov’s Pre-K Plans Will Lead Texas Kids to Godless Socialism

For another indication of just how much the paranoid, right-wing political fringe has become embedded in Texas government, check out what Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s “Grassroots Advisory Board” is up to. Today the panel of Tea Party activists released a letter criticizing Gov. Greg Abbott’s plans to expand pre-K programs in the state. Those programs, the advisory board insists, will undermine parental rights and put children into “a Godless environment” that promotes socialism.

Yeah, that’s right. Tea Party activists who advise the Republican lieutenant governor are accusing the Republican governor of trying to lead Texas kids into Godless socialism. This is whack-a-loon territory.

The governor’s plan, outlined in House Bill 4 and Senate Bill 801, call for more funding and better quality standards for pre-K programs that school districts choose to offer. Lt. Gov. Patrick’s Tea Party advisors see the bills as a step toward universal pre-K education for all Texas kids. (TFN takes no position on these bills. Pre-K isn’t one of the issues that we focus on. But we do monitor what the right-wing fringe is up to, and they really don’t like pre-K.)

You can read the full letter from the lieutenant governor’s advisory committee here. Some choice excerpts:

“(W)e are experimenting at great cost to taxpayers with a program that removes our young children from homes and half-day religious preschools and mothers’ day out programs to a Godless environment…”

“… Texans are endowed with ‘certain unalienable rights’ which include the rights and duties of parents to rear their children with minimal intrusion from the State. This interference by the State tramples upon our parental rights. The early removal of children from parents’ care is historically promoted in socialistic countries, not free societies which respect parental rights.”

“… We know that one-size does NOT fit all in our school districts, and if these bills become Law, we are going to begin imposing this on even younger and more malleable children. Texas would be sending the message to the rest of the Nation that parents do not or cannot love and care for their children as well as the State can.”

Grab the popcorn, folks. The circus is in town, and the clowns are parading around Ringmaster Dan Patrick.

Posted in 2015 Texas Legislature, Dan Patrick, education, TFN | 15 Comments

Texas Senate Mugs Public Schools, Gives Preliminary Approval to Private School Vouchers

Today the Texas Senate mugged the state’s public schools and their millions of students by providing preliminary approval to a reckless private school voucher bill. But the debate revealed some dirty truths that voucher supporters would prefer folks not know about the bill.

Senators gave approval to Senate Bill 4 on second reading. SB 4 would give tax credits to wealthy interests that provide vouchers subsidizing tuition at private and religious schools. Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller released the following statement:

“Neighborhood public schools and the millions of Texas kids who attend them just got mugged on the floor of the Texas Senate. The Senate should have fully restored the billions of dollars this Legislature cut from our neighborhood schools just four years ago. But instead they gave preliminary approval to a reckless and unaccountable voucher scheme that provides tax breaks for wealthy interests that take funds from public education in order to subsidize private and religious schools. The Texas Legislature is charged with providing a quality education for every child in our state. It seems today our senators forgot their obligation.”

The Senate vote was 17-13 in favor of SB 4. Final passage requires a third reading, which will probably follow in the next day or so.

In the lead up to the vote, the Senate debate and rejected a series of amendments:

  • One amendment would have barred private schools that take the tax-subsidized vouchers from discriminating against students. So SB 4 opens the door to tax-subsidized discrimination based on characteristics such as race, religion, gender and sexual orientation.
  • Another amendment would have ensured that students with disabilities who use these tax-subsidized vouchers receive the same rights and services in private schools that they would in public schools.
  • Yet another amendment would have required private schools taking tax-subsidized vouchers to meet the same education standards public schools must meet.

Republicans who supported SB 4 voted down all of those amendments. But the debate revealed dirty truths about government-subsidized private school vouchers. Private schools that take these vouchers can discriminate against students and their families for any reason. They don’t have to meet the same standards to which public schools are held. And students with disabilities are left out in the cold.

Angry by the Senate’s mugging of public education? Make sure your senator hears about it before the Senate votes on SB 4 in third reading. Click here to find the name of your senator and his or her contact information.

Posted in 2015 Texas Legislature, TFN, vouchers | 7 Comments

The Week in Quotes (April 12 – 18)

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

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TFN Statement on HERO Ruling

A state judge today ruled that opponents of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance did not gather enough valid petition signatures to force a repeal vote on the ordinance, which bars discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, race, religion, gender, military status and other categories. The anti-discrimination protections cover employment, housing and public accommodations.

TFN President Kathy Miller had this to say about today’s ruling:

The political activists who want to repeal this common sense ordinance reject the basic values we all share about equality and nondiscrimination. They have even argued for the right to discriminate against anyone, including LGBT people and religious minorities. That alone shows why it’s so important for the city to finally enforce these basic protections for everyone.

Posted in Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, LGBT issues, TFNEF | 2 Comments

Note to Religious-Righters: Opposing the Freedom to Marry Isn’t the Same as Opposing the Nazis

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are as evil as Nazis? That sure seems to be the message in an email on Thursday from two Texas-based, religious-right groups, Dave Welch’s Texas Pastor Council and Rick Scarborough’s Vision America.

The email insists that “Christians must rally to defend Biblical marriage in Texas.” It then calls on readers to contact lawmakers in support of legislation that “defunds homosexual marriage” in Texas:

HB 4105 is a simple, two-page bill that affirms our existing law and also defunds homosexual marriage. This law will enable our Attorney General Ken Paxton to safeguard Texas against the potential upcoming judicial supremacy by the U.S. Supreme Court. The passage of HB 4105 now will enable Texas to defend against the imminent out-of-state pressure to impose homosexual marriage on Texas beginning the last week in June.

House Bill 4105 by state Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, would do no such thing. While the bill would attempt to prohibit the use of state or local funds to license or support the marriage of gay and lesbian couples, it wouldn’t trump a Supreme Court ruling. The U.S. Constitution demands that Texas abide by such a ruling, just as the state had to abide by rulings striking down racial segregation in schools in 1954 and the ban on interracial marriage in 1967. In short, HB 4105 simply reflects a legislative temper tantrum by opponents of freedom and equality.

In any case, after asking pastors to include information about HB 4105 in materials for Sunday services, the email closes with a quote attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

Bonhoeffer was a Protestant minister who actively opposed the Nazis. The Nazis arrested him in 1943, then hanged him in the final weeks of World War II in 1945.

The suggestion that opposing the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples is like opposing the Nazis is repulsive. It doesn’t just demean loving, committed couples seeking to marry. It also diminishes the despicable crimes committed by the Nazis.

But in their desperation to stop the advance of freedom and equality for all, religious-righters are turning to increasingly hyperbolic rhetoric. And that rhetoric shows their opposition is based on little more than prejudice and hate.

Posted in 2015 Texas Legislature, LGBT issues, marriage equality, Texas Pastor Council, TFN, Vision America | 12 Comments

Rep. Anchia Stands Up for Adopted Children and Calls Out the Bad Guys

State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, is serving in his sixth session of the Texas Legislature and had never made a personal privilege speech. Until yesterday.

Anchia went on the House floor to speak about a bill he’s filed in several sessions. It’s a reasonable bill that simply removes the requirement that supplemental birth certificates for adopted children must list a man and a woman as parents. But the parents of some adopted children are same-sex couples. So this small change would, for example, allow such adopted children to face one less headache when acquiring a passport or to obtain benefits if a parent dies. Rep. Anchia makes this point very clearly in the video clip below.

The bill is pro-family legislation that is opposed by the purportedly pro-family group Texas Values, which Anchia called out (though not by name) for spreading lies about the bill.

The bill is languishing in committee, prompting Anchia’s speech. Note at the end of the video clip that state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, the chair of the committee considering Anchia’s bill, reaffirms his support of the legislation.

Watch the speech:

Posted in 2015 Texas Legislature, civil and equal rights, Texas Values, TFN | 2 Comments

This Week @ the Texas Legislature: Discrimination in Adoption, Foster Care and Child Welfare

Click below for contact information of committee members.

Wednesday, April 15
House Juvenile Justice & Family Issues

On Wednesday, a state House committee will take up HB 3864, by state Rep. Scott Sanford, R-McKinney. Like the recent Indiana law that caused such backlash, this bill would authorize state-sanctioned discrimination purportedly to protect religious freedom.

The primary consideration for a child welfare agency or organization should always be the best interests of the child — not advancing a sectarian belief or political agenda. This bill gets that backward.

Call the members of the Texas House Committee on Juvenile Justice & Family Issues and tell them to oppose HB 3864 because:

  • The bill is clearly intended to discriminate against LGBT children and families. As written the law would allow child welfare agencies (including adoption and foster care) that receive tax-payer dollars to pick and choose which children they will and will not work with.
  • The broad language of this bill would allow private agencies to discriminate against single or divorced people, interfaith couples, as well as people of different faiths than the agencies. All of these could potentially be turned away from providing homes to children – even if they are relatives of the child.
  • Current laws and regulations in Texas already balance the convictions of religiously affiliated child welfare service providers with the needs and beliefs of children they serve. There is no history of problems this bill would remedy.

Texas has a tragic history of partnering with child welfare organizations that use religious doctrine to mask child abuse and proselytizing. The Roloff Homes, a faith-based home for troubled teens run by fundamentalist preacher Lester Roloff, had a string of abuse and physical neglect allegations that ultimately forced them to close their facilities in Texas.

Posted in 2015 Texas Legislature, religious freedom, TFN | 3 Comments