#AmplifyATX: 24 Hours Can Make an Impact

Starting at 6 p.m. today, the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund will participate in the third annual Amplify Austin. What is Amplify Austin? It’s a 24-hour, online philanthropy opportunity that offers a fun, inspiring and incentivized way of giving to causes you care about — causes like TFN!

Here’s how it works. Between 6 p.m. on March 5 and 6 p.m. on March 6, every donation you make to TFN will go even further to support our vital mission.

All you have to do is visit amplifyatx.org/texasfreedomnetwork, click “Donate Now” and make your gift.

Gifts given during that 24-hour period will receive a portion of challenge funds and incentive prizes — making your donation have an even greater impact!

Can’t be there at 6 p.m. to give? You can schedule your donation before Amplify even starts. Set it and forget it and still be a part of this exciting opportunity for TFN.

So get ready to crank it up! Thank you so much for your participation and generosity.

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Extremists Push to Make It Even Harder to Access Abortion Care in Texas

Anti-abortion extremists in Texas are pushing new legislation that would make it even more difficult, if not impossible, for millions of Texans to have access to safe, legal and affordable abortion care. This time they’re doing so by attacking private health insurance offered through the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA), or “Obamacare.”

Extremists have long attacked the the ACA for allegedly forcing federal taxpayers to “subsidize” abortions. But they haven’t been telling the truth.

Since the passage of the so-called Hyde Amendment in the late 1970s, federal law has barred the use of federal funds to pay for abortion except in the cases of rape or incest and if the life of the mother is endangered. The ACA doesn’t change that. From the Henry K. Kaiser Family Foundation’s excellent website detailing the provisions of the ACA:

The ACA reinforces the current Hyde Amendment restrictions, continuing to limit federal funds to pay for pregnancy terminations that endanger the life of the woman or that are a result of rape or incest. State Medicaid programs continue to have the option to cover abortions in other circumstances using only state funds and no federal funds. President Obama issued an executive order as part of health reform that restated the federal limits specifically for Medicaid coverage of abortion. The law also explicitly does not preempt other current state policies regarding abortion, such as parental consent or notification, waiting period laws or any of the abortion limits or coverage requirements that states have enacted.

Despite its status as a legal medical procedure with an important role in reproductive health care, abortion coverage is not one of the federally established essential benefits in ACA-compliant health insurance plans available through the state marketplaces, or exchanges, set up under the federal law. Moreover, at least one plan on each exchange must not include coverage for abortion (except to save the life of the mother or in cases of rape or incest). Otherwise, private insurers can choose to include coverage for abortion care in their plans offered through the state exchanges, but consumers may not use their federal subsidies available through the ACA to pay for such coverage. They must instead pay a separate premium for that coverage out of their own pocket.

Even so, the radical organization Texas Right to Life is calling for passage of two anti-abortion bills proposed this session in the Texas Legislature, SB 575 by state Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, and HB 1435 by state Rep. John Smithee, R-Amarillo. SB 575 and HB 1435 would essentially bar any health insurance plans on the state exchange in Texas from offering coverage for abortion care, except in cases of rape or incest or when the life of the mother is in danger.

Of course, the ultimate goal of extremist groups like Texas Right to Life is to end access to safe, legal abortion care completely and permanently. But until then, they’re determined to ensure that access is so limited that it’s virtually impossible for most Texans to get it.

Posted in 2015 Texas Legislature, abortion, Reproductive health, TFNEF | 2 Comments

Talking Points

From today’s TFN News Clips:

“Because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight — and when they come out, they’re gay. So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question.”

— Dr. Ben Carson, a potential presidential candidate and a favorite of far-right Republicans and tea party activists, explaining why he thinks sexual orientation is a choice. Really.

Stay informed with TFN’s daily News Clips, a digest of news about politics and the religious right. Subscribe here.

Posted in LGBT issues, Talking Points, TFNEF | 1 Comment

VIDEO: Rev. Eric Folkerth at Faith Advocacy Day

Here’s another great video from last month’s Faith Advocacy Day at the Texas Capitol, during which people of faith and faith leaders stood for full equality for all LGBT Texans.

This clips is of Rev. Eric Folkerth of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas. A transcripts of his prepared remarks follow the video.

You can join the campaign at texasbelieves.org.

We are gathered here today at our state capitol as a new coalition of faith leaders from around our great state. We come for different faith traditions, but we stand today with a common voice and goal: We seek the just treatment of our LGBT brothers and sisters under the law of the state.

We believe passionately that there are many places throughout our state, and even at the state level, where addition protections under the law are needed for our LGBT friends. Our message is actually a positive one. We believe these laws strengthen every Texas family, bring together our communities, and protect rights in a way that is important for all of us.

My own commitment to this cause comes from the blessings I have received as the pastor of Northaven Church in Dallas. Our congregation is blessed to have within it a large number of LGBT people. Gays and straights all live, worship, and pray together within our walls. And all of us have learned that we are stronger together, as we raise our families together, and seek to be be God’s community of faith.

But I recognize, as a happily married straight man, that I am often afforded a level of legal and social protection that our LGBT members are still not afforded in many cases. So, today, I am thinking of Randy and Victor; and their two children. I am thinking of Mary and Lisa; and their daughter. I am thinking of Barry, who is a college professor, and of Ed who is a truck driver. All of them are a part of the beautiful LGBT community that I have come to know and love.

All of them are faithful members of our church. I’ve had the good fortune to worship, pray, and serve God alongside of them. All of them are upstanding citizens in our community. All of pay taxes, work hard, and are blessings to their neighbors and friends.

And the idea that any of them might be discriminated under state or local laws is absolutely unacceptable. Not only is this unacceptable to me as, a minister of the Gospel, but it’s unacceptable to straight members, who cannot fathom why any community in Texas would discriminate against LGBT people.

Thankfully, many of the companies and cities in the DFW area have already passed non-discrimination laws that are accepted and embraced by the whole population. So, our positive message to the rest of the State is: Have no fear. No one here today is asking for special rights or privileges. We are simply asking that the rights of LGBT persons not be diminished because of who they are and whom they love. There is nothing to fear, and everything to gain in treating all our citizens with dignity, respect, and justice under the law.

Finally, I am here because of the call of my own faith tradition – the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus said “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

The Jewish faith, and the sayings of Mohammed both mirror this same spiritual truth: The most powerful and just way to treat all of our brothers and sisters is to treat them the way you would wish to be treated. The call of our faith, the call of justice under the law, compels us to this.

Posted in 2015 Texas Legislature, LGBT issues, TFNEF | 2 Comments

Love Has No Labels

Religious extremists discriminate against — and even murder — people of other faiths (or no religion at all). Politicians insist that the rights of some families are worth more than the rights of others. Bigots continue to divide us by race, ethnicity and gender.

In so many ways, we are taught to fear and stigmatize those who are different from us. That discrimination is somehow OK. That love is right or wrong, depending on who we are and whom we love.

But the video above from the Ad Council’s Love Has No Labels initiative is a powerful reminder that love is always right, regardless of the labels we give each other.

Posted in equality, TFNEF | 1 Comment

David Barton Says God Doesn’t Want Vaccine for AIDS

So whose hatred is more venomous — the “God Hates Fags” crowd from Fred Phelps’ extremist congregation or David Barton, the Texas-based religious-right propagandist who thinks God is punishing gay people with AIDS? Tough call.

Speaking recently at Charis Bible College in Colorado, Barton told his audience that there will never be a vaccine for AIDS pretty much because God doesn’t want one. Our friends at Right Wing Watch quote Barton as explaining that Romans 1 in the Bible says people who have sex with others of the same gender will suffer a “penalty they deserved”:

“Anything the Bible says is right. There is scientific basis for it now. The federal government, in the last several years, has spent tens of billions of dollars looking for a vaccine for AIDS, and I don’t think they will ever find a vaccine for HIV/AIDS. And I say that based on a particular Bible verse … Notice this, homosexuals receive in their bodies the penalty due them. The Bible says if you engage in homosexuality, your body will do things that will penalize you. So if you can have a vaccine for AIDS, then you’re keeping your body from penalizing you. I don’t think they’ll ever find a vaccine for AIDS.”

This isn’t the first time Barton has made the same vile argument. The Southern Poverty Law Center also documents Barton’s anti-gay screeds. In any case, each time he says something like that, we’re reminded of Pat Buchanan’s sneering attack on gay people as AIDS killed thousands in the 1980s:

”The poor homosexuals — they have declared war upon nature, and now nature is extracting an awful retribution.”

That was in 1983. Barton is still making essentially the same argument more than three decades later. And keep this in mind: Barton is influential with right-wing Republican lawmakers who vote on things like funding for AIDS research.

Posted in David Barton, LGBT issues, TFNEF | 6 Comments

The Week in Quotes (Feb. 22 – 28)

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 | Leave a comment

Tony Tinderholt’s Defense of Marriage(s)

On Wednesday, state Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, filed a complaint with the State Commission on Judicial Conduct against state District Judge David Wahlberg. The alleged wrongdoing? That Wahlberg issued the order that allowed Suzanne Bryant and Sarah Goodfriend to obtain a marriage license, making them the first same-sex couple to legally marry in Texas.

Quorum Report editor Scott Braddock, via Twitter, had something to say about the Tinderholt complaint.

Posted in marriage equality, religious right, TFNEF | 2 Comments

TFN Joins ‘Call to Action’ on Reproductive Health Care in Texas

TRA_imageToday the Texas Freedom Network joined with six coalition partners for a “Call to Action” on reproductive health care at the Texas Capitol. Here’s the joint press release we sent out:


Attacks on Reproductive Health Care Must Be Stopped, Advocates, Faith Leaders, and Lawmakers Tell Crowd

February 26, 2015

Today a diverse group of Texans from across the state joined forces with a broad coalition of organizations at the Texas State Capitol to call on lawmakers to support policies that restore trust in Texans to make their own reproductive health care decisions, respect for health care professionals, and access to safe, timely abortion care.

Speaking at an event on the Capitol steps, Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Woman’s Health, explained that the Trust. Respect. Access. campaign aims to build a movement for reproductive freedom in Texas.

“Texans have endured tremendous political interference that has eroded access to quality healthcare across the state, all based on the lies of extremist politicians,” she said. “Today we commit to change the conversation around abortion, reverse some of the most restrictive policies on reproductive healthcare and push for more proactive legislation that protects and preserves reproductive rights.”

Candice Russell shared a personal abortion story that stressed the impact restrictive policies like House Bill 2 have on the lives of Texans.

“I spent a lot of time fighting against HB 2’s restrictions – restrictions that I never thought were going to personally impact me,” Russell said. “After realizing I was pregnant again last year, I needed to travel to California to undergo my surgical abortion.”

Hundreds of advocates spent the day visiting legislative offices to urge lawmakers to reverse the damage caused by laws that restrict access to the full range of reproductive health care.

Kathy Miller, president of Texas Freedom Network, emphasized that this day of action was part of the comprehensive, multi-year Trust. Respect. Access. campaign.

“Our campaign isn’t just about the bills that legislators are considering this session,” Miller said. “Today we are all committing to a long, sustained effort to roll back the reckless attacks on reproductive health care and restore trust in Texans to make our own decisions about whether and when to have children without the interference of meddling politicians.”

The coalition partners leading this coordinated effort include: ACLU of Texas, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, Texas Freedom Network, Texas Research Institute, and Whole Woman’s Health.

Posted in 2015 Texas Legislature, abortion, birth control, Reproductive health, sex education, TFN | 2 Comments

Anti-Muslim Hysteria Returns to the Texas Capitol

Efforts to pass legislation addressing the mythical threat of Sharia, or Islamic law, in Texas are gearing up yet again in the current legislative session.

Right-wing state lawmakers have been pushing for years to pass legislation banning Sharia in Texas. Many such bills around the country have been linked to a core group of anti-Muslim fanatics (see here as well) who claim that America is at risk of coming under the control of Muslim extremists and Islamic law. Nevermind that the U.S. Constitution forbids the establishment of religious laws. (And nevermind that many of those fanatics and their supporters often argue that American laws should be based on their own particular Christian beliefs.)

Federal courts have taken a skeptical view of such laws, noting that they single out a particular religion. Indeed, many efforts to pass such laws represent little more than poorly concealed bigotry aimed at Muslim Americans.

So in recent years supporters of anti-Sharia bills have tried to craft laws without actually mentioning Sharia. Instead, their bills bar the application of “foreign,” “international” or “cultural” laws in our courts. And supporters often try to avoid even mentioning Sharia in legislative debates over the bills.

No one is fooled. And legislators’ efforts to hide the real targets of their legislation are further undermined by their own statements in front of friendly audiences.

Take, for example, remarks by state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, at Tuesday’s Faith and Freedom event sponsored by religious-right groups at the Texas Capitol. Trying to dispel the notion that his proposed HB 562 is really about demagoguery and bigotry, Leach insisted that Sharia is a real threat. From a Texas Observer story today:

“Read the news,” Leach told the crowd. The menace of Sharia law was becoming more pressing every day. “There’s no judge in Texas that should even think twice about violating the U.S. Constitution.”

Leach’s words reflect the time-honored political practice of fear-mongering. There is zero chance of anyone imposing Sharia law in Texas. Our judges are not violating the Constitution and imposing it on anyone. If they did, we would be among those standing in strong opposition.

But legislation proposed by lawmakers like Leach do threaten voluntary agreements individuals enter into based on their religious beliefs — including the beliefs of Muslims, Jews, Christians and other faiths. Do Texans want politicians interfering in their religious freedom and their right to enter into such private agreements?

More to the point, these anti-Sharia bills simply appeal to bigotry by using religion as a weapon to divide Texans for political gain. We’ve seen it over and over again at the Texas Capitol. And we’re seeing it again this year.

Posted in Islam, Jeff Leach, TFN | 10 Comments