Bloody Street Battles in Laredo? More Fear-Mongering from Texas Eagle Forum

Cathie Adams, president of the Texas chapter of Phyllis Schlafly’s far-right group Eagle Forum, is one of the biggest promoters of hysteria and fear-mongering in the Lone Star State. That’s especially true when the former Texas Republican Party chairwoman talks about immigration.

Writing in Texas Eagle Forum’s October online newsletter, Adams says she traveled to the Texas-Mexico border recently to look at the problem of undocumented immigration firsthand. Her “report” includes this sensational item:

“In Laredo, we saw drug cartel watchdogs brazenly standing on street corners without any fear from the severely understaffed Sheriff’s department. We were told about a recent gun fight between Mexican drug gangs on the streets of Laredo. Big SUVs lined up on opposite sides of a line with gunmen’s arms and weapons hanging out the windows. There were so many killed in the gunfight that authorities brought in a flatbed truck to collect the dead bodies. Laredo authorities then warned citizens to avoid the city for three days, although the newspaper only reported a gang confrontation in which a couple people were wounded. Why the misinformation? So that tourists wouldn’t be afraid to visit the wild, wild west Texas-Mexico border city of Laredo!”

We wonder how such a bloody, massive gun battle between Mexican drug gangs in the streets of an American city somehow escaped the attention of the news media, and especially the right-wing media. Seems to us Fox News would have had a legion of reporters and talk show host detailing the collapse of civilization on the American side of the border.

In response to a request for information from the Texas Freedom Network, a Webb County spokesperson said he had heard of no such event occurring in Laredo, the county seat. But Adams apparently thinks there is some sort of coverup.

Of course, we wouldn’t be surprised to read about such a gun battle occurring across the border in Nuevo Laredo. Mexico’s drug wars in recent years have been vicious and bloody. But Adams wants folks to believe that those wars have caused streets on this side of the border to overflow with blood. (Perhaps Adams will now try to suggest that she really was talking about Nuevo Laredo. But the context makes it clear that she meant the Texas city of Laredo.)

Border warfare is a common theme on the far right days. Consider the efforts to portray border cities like El Paso as major crime hotspots because of the battles between drug gangs in Juarez just across the border. But statistics show that for years now El Paso has had the lowest crime rate among American cities with a population of more than 500,000. Right-wingers have also tried to demonize refugee children as disease-carrying gangbangers who are a threat to Texas public school kids.

Adams is especially reckless. Two years ago, for example, she wrote that “25 Americans or legal residents die each day at the hands of illegal aliens.” But according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, that stat was actually a made-up number from a six-year-old Internet essay by U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. King is one of the most extreme anti-immigrant voices in America today.

To be clear, undocumented immigration is a real problem. That’s true despite large increases in spending and staffing for border control, especially over the past decade. But the misleading or downright fictional stories promoted by extremists like Adams do nothing to help solve the problem. Those stories are meant just to frighten people.

Posted in Cathie Adams, immigration, Texas Eagle Forum, TFNEF | 1 Comment

Texas Republican: End Legal Immigration or We’ll Never Elect a Conservative President Again

A local Texas Republican Party official is arguing that the nation must close its borders to all immigration, legal or otherwise, if the GOP ever wants to elect another American president.

“With every passing year it’s getting harder and harder to elect a Republican president, and frankly, if things don’t change, in a few years it will be next to impossible,” writes Peter Morrison, treasurer of the Hardin Country Republican Party in Southeast Texas, in one of his periodic e-newsletters today. “That’s because immigrants, far from being natural conservatives, prefer the Democrats by about a two to one margin, and every year they and their descendants make up a bigger part of the voting population.”

You might recall that Morrison and other right-wingers worked (unsuccessfully) to oust Republican Joe Straus of San Antonio as Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives following the 2010 elections. They thought Straus wasn’t conservative enough, and Morrison also pointed out that Straus’ opponents in the contest for Speaker were Christians. Straus is Jewish.

Morrison has in the past portrayed white Christians as victims of an increasingly diverse American electorate. He blames minorities and “maggots” for President Obama’s re-election, and he worries about maintaining the “traditional American demographic status quo.” So it’s not surprising to see him argue in his email today that bringing “legal immigration to a virtual halt” is necessary “so that our grandchildren won’t grow up in an alien and hostile culture.”

Of course, Morrison doesn’t think immigration has always been bad. It’s just that today, you see, we’re getting the wrong kind of immigrants:

“Until 1965, immigration was largely restricted to people from Europe, where the vast majority of Americans had their roots.  The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 changed all that. Now, 90% of immigrants are non-European, and they’re coming here at the rate of about a million a year.  They’ve been doing so for decades, and that is the main reason why it has become nearly impossible to elect a Republican president.”

But why can’t Republicans attract the support of these new, non-European immigrants? Welfare, apparently:

“When asked if they prefer a bigger government providing more services, or a smaller one providing fewer, 55% of Asians and 75% of Hispanics said they prefer a bigger government.  Most immigrants are poor, and many receive government handouts for many years after moving here.”

Morrison worries that “the greatest country in the history of the world has become a dumping ground for the offspring of the poor of Central and South America.” So European immigrants weren’t poor?

But there’s another reason to stop immigration, he writes (emphasis added):

“Making things even worse, many immigrants despise us and our children, even as millions of them flock here.  To them, we’re a bunch of racists who deserve nothing but their contempt.  They also have no attachment to our history and roots, and many of them couldn’t care less about the Constitution. … Making matters even worse is that every single non-European immigrant is entitled to affirmative action and other racial preferences the moment they get off the plane.  Not only will conservatives be outnumbered politically in the not too distant future, our children are going to grow up surrounded by people who have more rights than they do, and who despise everything they represent.”

Wait. Immigrants think people like Morrison are racists? That’s outrageous! What in the world would give them that idea?

Posted in immigration, Peter Morrison, TFNEF | 2 Comments

What Is the Real Threat to Religious Freedom in America?

Right-wing politicians and pressure groups cynically claim that religious freedom is under attack in America. But in a column published today in the Austin American-Statesman, Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller writes that the real threat to religious liberty comes from those seeking to redefine what that freedom actually means. Kathy’s full column is below.

Recent court decisions extending marriage equality to same-sex couples in more states have led to another round of charges that religious freedom is under attack in America. These cynical claims couldn’t be more wrong.

If religious liberty in America is really threatened, the danger comes from efforts to redefine what that freedom actually means. We see this in debates over many issues.

Critics say the legalization of same-sex marriage threatens the religious freedom of those who oppose it. But clergy will continue to preside, and rightly so, only over weddings that align with their particular faith beliefs. On the other hand, many states still refuse to recognize same-sex weddings performed by clergy who find such unions compatible with their religious faith. What about their religious freedom?

Critics go further by complaining that religious owners of secular businesses – like bakers and facility operators – won’t be able to discriminate against same-sex couples seeking their services.

But our laws don’t allow the manager at the local hardware store to refuse service to female customers because his religious beliefs forbid him from interacting with women unrelated to him. Similarly, if the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had exempted business owners who based their support for white supremacy and anti-Semitism on their religious beliefs, the discrimination protections in that landmark law would be almost meaningless.

Yet some politicians and activists today argue for precisely such exemptions. We saw this during the debate over passage of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance last spring. That measure bars discrimination based on race, gender, religion, and other characteristics.

A conservative Christian minister argued that including sexual orientation and gender identity in the ordinance would undermine religious freedom. Under persistent questioning, however, she eventually acknowledged that business owners should also be free to fire or deny service to, for example, Jews for religious reasons. That’s not religious freedom. That’s discrimination.

The long-established principle in America is that those who choose to do business in the public marketplace must treat everyone equally under the law. This principle doesn’t require business owners to change their religious beliefs or how they live their personal lives. It simply acknowledges that we live in a diverse society that respects equality and civility in the public square.

The debate over marriage and the Houston ordinance has shown that the real danger to freedom comes from those who seek to impose their own religious beliefs on people who don’t share them. We see this on other issues as well.

For example, social conservatives argue that employers should be able to deny, for religious reasons, birth control coverage in their workers’ health insurance plans. This radical view holds a woman’s personal decisions about whether and when to have children hostage to the religious dictates of her employer. That’s also not religious freedom.

Some politicians also arrogantly point to God to justify anti-abortion legislation. In 2013, for example, state Sen. Dan Patrick argued in favor of such legislation by pointing out that supporters were “listening a little closer” to what God wants.

Our nation’s founders surely didn’t think politicians had the special wisdom to know who is really listening to God. Indeed, many clergy and other people of faith point out that their religious beliefs lead them to support the right of women to access safe, legal abortion care.

The Constitution rightly guarantees religious freedom for all. But when politicians wield religion as a weapon to divide our communities and to promote a narrow and discriminatory public policy agenda, all freedom – including religious freedom – suffers.

Posted in religious freedom, TFNEF | 2 Comments

Some Things Never Change (UPDATED) (SECOND UPDATE)

Actually, things change all the time. It’s the religious right that never, ever changes.

2002
(Click image to enlarge)

2014
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(h/t Equality Texas)

UPDATE
TFN has issued the following statement in response to the anti-gay mailer in the District 10 Texas Senate race.

TFN PRESIDENT CONDEMNS HATEFUL MAILER IN NORTH TEXAS SENATE RACE

Texas Voters Rejected Similar Anti-Gay Hate Campaign 12 Years Ago

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 28, 2014

Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller is condemning a reprehensible anti-gay campaign mailer attacking the Democratic nominee for a state Senate seat from North Texas.

“These kinds of hateful campaign tactics represent politics at its worst,” Miller said. “To smear a candidate because she supports equality for everyone is shameful and out of step with Texas voters who are leaving that kind of bigotry in the past.”

Reports indicate that an out-of-state organization called the National Family Coalition sent out mailers to voters in the District 10 state Senate race between Democrat Libby Willis and Republican Konni Burton. The mailer charges that Willis is “pushing the radical homosexual agenda” and supports allowing sexual predators to use women’s restrooms and “forcing homosexual marriage” on Texas. The mailer includes a photo of shirtless men participating in a gay rights march and asks: “Is this Libby Willis’ vision for Texas?”

In 2002 a far-right political action committee, Free PAC, used similar anti-gay mailers in an effort to defeat a half-dozen Republicans — including then-acting Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff — in GOP legislative primaries in Texas. None of the targeted incumbents lost their races.

###

The Texas Freedom Network is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization of religious and community leaders who support religious freedom, individual liberties and public education.

SECOND UPDATE
Republican Konni Burton’s campaign is denying that it had anything to do with the offensive mailer. On the other hand, when asked by the Austin-based political news website Quorum Report (subscription required) whether Burton thinks the mailer is homophobic, a spokesman for the campaign refused to comment.

That response shows a campaign wanting it both ways — denying responsibility for a vicious, bigoted and misleading attack piece while refusing to repudiate what the piece says.

Posted in 2014 Elections, LGBT issues, religious right | 1 Comment

Texas Legislator-to-Be Says There Is No Separation of Church and State

“It sounds crazy, because you ask, ‘where is the separation of church and state?’ You tell me. Where is separation of church and state? It’s not there. Somebody is determining the values of this culture and they are determining the values of those who hold public office, that are determining the future of your children, grandchildren and you. If the people in this position, as pastors and as Christian leaders, refuse to say anything, who is going to determine the perspective by which everybody lives, breathes and acts? The secularists, the humanists, the socialists. These are not empty words. This is what’s taking place.”

That’s a quote from Mark Keough, the Republican nominee for the the Texas House of Representatives seat in District 15 north of Houston. Keough, a former car salesman and currently senior pastor at The Woodlands Bible Church, made the statement in a talk to folks at his church last Sunday (October 19). He is unopposed in the November general election and will replace state Rep. Steve Toth, a Republican from The Woodlands who thinks teaching teens about birth control leads to pregnancy. Toth lost a bid for a state senate seat this year.

Keough served earlier this year on an official state panel charged with reviewing proposed new social studies textbooks for Texas public schools.

Posted in church and state, Mark Keough, TFNEF | 1 Comment

The Week in Quotes (Oct. 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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Posted in The Week in Quotes | 1 Comment

Texas Officials Won’t Let Houston Mayor’s Daughter Get Driver’s License Because She Has Two Moms

Texas journalist John Wright reports on his Lone Star Q blog that the Texas Department of Public Safety has refused to allow Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s daughter to take a driver’s test because she has two moms. Mayor Parker, who married her longtime partner earlier this year, tweeted last night about what happened:

The Texas Freedom Network this past weekend presented Parker with our Equal Rights Champion Award for her work to pass the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance last spring. Before and throughout her three terms as Houston’s mayor, religious-right groups have viciously attacked Parker as a “sodomite” seeking a “gay takeover” of the Bayou City. Now Texas authorities are also shamefully and offensively dismissing the mayor’s family as a fiction.

UPDATE: Mayor Parker just tweeted that her daughter was able to get a driver’s license after three trips to the DPS office.

Posted in Annise Parker, LGBT issues, TFNEF | 5 Comments

Publishers Make Some Revisions to Texas Textbooks, But Big Problems Remain

So what’s been happening in the controversial social studies textbook adoption in Texas? Since the State Board of Education’s first public hearing on the adoption in September and the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund’s release of scholarly reviews of the proposed textbooks, publishers have been considering changes to their textbooks. Today the state board met to hear publishers tell them what they plan to do, and TFN has had a chance to review those changes.

In short, publishers are making some good changes to address the legitimate concerns noted by our scholars. They also appear to be resisting pressure from right-wing groups and activists to insert more distortions and bias, particularly more information reinforcing negative stereotypes of Muslims. But the news is far from all good. Many problems remain, especially textbook passages that exaggerate, and even invent, religious influences on the American founding. We just sent out this press release:

PUBLISHERS MAKE SOME CORRECTIONS, BUT PROBLEMS REMAIN IN TEXAS TEXTBOOK ADOPTION

Publishers Also Largely Appear to Be Resisting Demands from Extremists

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 20, 2014

The Texas Freedom Network Education Fund today applauded select changes made to proposed Texas public school social studies textbooks, as well as publishers’ unwillingness to bow to pressure from extremist groups seeking to insert further distortions into the texts.

TFN Education Fund President Kathy Miller cautioned, however, that numerous problems with the textbooks remain, and she renewed a call to publishers to correct biased and inaccurate content uncovered in a scholarly review of the textbooks sponsored by the TFN Education Fund.

Publishers briefed the State Board of Education on their proposed changes at a meeting in Austin today.

“We are glad that publishers are in some cases listening to the advice of scholars and qualified experts who have looked at these textbooks,” Miller said. “We are headed in the right direction, but there remain in the textbooks a number of biases and inaccuracies that should be corrected before the books can be approved by the State Board of Education.”

The TFN Education Fund in September submitted to publishers reports outlining various problems with the books. The reports, authored by scholars and doctoral students at top universities, found the textbooks contain serious distortions of history and contemporary issues on topics ranging from religion and democracy to the free enterprise system and affirmative action.

Some of the improvements made by publishers in response to the TFN Education Fund reports include improving coverage of world religions, clarifying that the issue of slavery was the major cause of the U.S. Civil War, and correcting discussions about the spread of Islam and Christianity over time.

Publishers have also ignored demands from extremist groups that want to use the textbooks to reinforce negative stereotypes about Islam. Instead, publishers have removed biased passages about Muslims identified in the TFN Education Fund report.

For selected examples of changes made to the books, as well as requests for changes rejected by publishers, see the list below.

However, problems remain in the textbooks. For example, passages that exaggerate the influence of Christianity on the nation’s founding are still in several of the books.

“These textbooks make Moses the original founding father and credit him for virtually every distinctive feature of American government,” Southern Methodist University history professor Kathleen Wellman said. “I believe students will believe Moses was the first American.”

The State Board of Education will vote on which textbooks to approve at its meeting in November. If approved, the textbooks will be in use in Texas public schools starting with the 2015-16 academic year and could remain in classrooms for the next decade.

Selected Examples of Publisher Corrections and Improvements

·      Social Studies School Service – World History

“Much of the violence you read or hear about in the Middle East is related to Jihad.”

Publisher Response: “We intend to address [this] by rewording the statement in question (and surrounding text) to eliminate generalizations regarding the causes of violence in the Middle East.”

·      Pearson Education – Texas History

Causes of the Civil War 

Publisher Response: “Pearson will make the following correction: ‘In fact most historians agree that the major reason for disagreement about states’ rights was the determination of white southerners to maintain slavery. The economies of Texas and other southern states depended on slavery. The structure of these societies rested on slavery. All white people achieved some status in society simply because they were free.’”

·      Discovery Education – United States History (Civil War-Present)

Inadequate job discussing the relationship between the Enlightenment and Declaration of Independence

Publisher Response: “The page describes John Locke in depth and provides links to Glossary Terms on enlightenment ideas, including the social contract and natural rights. Additional video content will be added to the page to provide more context.”

·      Discovery Education – United States History (Civil War-Present)

Description of spread of Catholicism in Latin America “soft pedals” conquest

Publisher Response: “We will add text to clarify the role that conquest played in conversion.”

·      Cengage  – World Geography and Culture (Grade 6)

Description: The text suggests inaccurately that Islam spread only by conquest.

Publisher Response: Revise passage to read, “In the centuries after Muhammad’s death, Muslims spread their religion by conquest, through trade, and through missionary work.”

Selected Examples of Publisher Rejection of Extremist Demands to Introduce Bias/Inaccuracy

·      Worldview Software – World History

Demand: “Half Truth: To portray any hypothesis or theory [like evolution] as fact is a clear misapplication of the scientific method. Hypotheses must be falsifiable through observation and reproducible experimentation to be considered a legitimate participant in the scientific method.”

Publisher Response: “WorldView is following current and standard usage of the terms in question. From the National Academy of Sciences: ‘Is Evolution a Theory or a Fact?’  It is both… No changes envisioned to the text.”

·      Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – World History Studies

Demand: “Factual Error: Islam wasn’t ‘revealed’ until 610 A.D. Muslims began invading nations 156 years after Rome fell (632 A.D.), and they had (and have) no respect for knowledge, so if anything was left, they wouldn’t have cared to save it. Islam does not believe in preserving; exactly the opposite, in fact, in its belief that everything pre-Allah is corruption of truth and they must rip it up or tear it down.”

Publisher Response: Publisher agreed to clarify the timeline but did not agree to add distorted anti-Islam content promoted by the reviewer.

·      Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – World Geography Studies

Demand: “Omission of Fact & Half Truth: Does not stress the dangers, oppression, and lack of freedoms that Communism always brings. ‘Benefits’ is not a correct word when using the word Communism. The word ‘benefits’ insinuates good things. Communism brings nothing good. This should be brought up in this section [on Cuba].”

Publisher Response: “Use of the word ‘benefits’ to describe the provision of education and health care under communism is appropriate.”

·      Pearson Education – Contemporary World Cultures

Demand: “For the Islamists jihad does not mean ‘the struggle to be a better person.’ It does not mean ‘violent struggle.’ It means holy war with the intent of spreading Islam throughout the world.”

Response: “This is not a factual error. The term has more than one meaning. It can be interpreted as the struggle to be a better person and as violent struggle in the form or holy war with the intent to spread Islam.”

·      Worldview Software – World History

Demand: “[Marcus Garvey] He stirred pride in African history? He stirred racism in America… Black people in America are known as Americans just as white people, red people, etc. To distinguish this person as a ‘Notable Person’ is appalling.”

Publisher Response: “No changes envisioned to the text.”

Posted in social studies adoption (2014), TFNEF | 4 Comments

The Week in Quotes (Oct. 12 – 18)

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 | 1 Comment

The Week in Quotes (Oct. 5 – 11)

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 | 1 Comment