Extremist Lauded by TX Legislator as a ‘Brave Patriot’ Wonders if ‘Negroes’ Better Off as ‘Slaves, Picking Cotton’

It turns out that the Nevada anti-government extremist lauded recently by Texas state Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, as a “brave patriot” has some pretty offensive things to say about African Americans.

Earlier this month hundreds of armed, anti-government “militia” activists converged on Cliven Bundy’s ranch in Nevada. They did so to support Bundy, who has been illegally grazing his cattle on federal land for more than 20 years. Bundy has refused to pay any fees or obey court orders to stop grazing his cattle on the land. In fact, he claims Nevada is sovereign and has said “I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing.

Bundy’s militia supporters bullied federal agents into halting an effort to round up Bundy’s illegally grazing cattle. Like moths drawn to a flame, right-wing activists and politicians like Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, a tea party hero, rushed to express their support for Bundy. Texas state Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, tweeted his own criticism of the federal Bureau of Land Management (but not the armed extremists) in the case:

The Bureau of Land Management needs to be defunded. Prime case of bureaucrats abusing power .

But Riddle’s comments about Bundy and the federal government were among the most outrageous. On her Facebook page she called Bundy a “brave patriot” and denounced federal agents enforcing the law as “jack booted thugs.”

Now, however, it looks like Bundy’s racial views are as repugnant as his anti-government extremism. From a story in today’s New York Times (emphasis added):

[Bundy] said he would continue holding a daily news conference; on Saturday, it drew one reporter and one photographer, so Mr. Bundy used the time to officiate at what was in effect a town meeting with supporters, discussing, in a long, loping discourse, the prevalence of abortion, the abuses of welfare and his views on race.

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” he said. Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

Jaw-dropping, yes?

Still think Bundy is a “great patriot,” Rep. Riddle?

Riddle is a right-winger’s right-winger. As you might recall, she once attacked public education as an idea “from Moscow” and “straight out of the pit of hell.” Despite hating government so much, however, she keeps running for re-election. She just won her Republican Primary for a seventh term in the Texas House of Representatives. She qualifies for a legislative pension at the end of her time in office.

Posted in Bill Zedler, Debbie Riddle, TFNEF | 5 Comments

Far-right Org Wants Textbooks to Portray Southern Whites as Victims after the U.S. Civil War

A right-wing organization long involved in the Texas textbook wars wants new history textbooks to portray the treatment of former Confederate states and white southerners after the U.S. Civil War as similar to the British treatment of its colonies in the years leading up the American Revolution.

“Radical Reconstruction (1867-1877) featured numerous serious constitutional problems, many of which reprised Parliament’s violation of American colonial rights before 1776.”

That’s right: Educational Research Analysts, the East Texas outfit founded by the late Mel and Norma Gabler, complains that the people and states that plunged our nation into its bloodiest war — a war they launched in defense of a “right” to enslave millions of human beings — were the real victims in that war and its aftermath. And similar treatment of the colonies, it argues, justified the American Revolution and independence from Great Britain.

The organization criticizes U.S. History textbooks for failing to teach students about these “similarities”:

“U.S. History texts sidestep these stark similarities between the American Revolution and Radical Reconstruction. They ignore the British constitutional basis for colonial revolt in the former. They blame only white racism for opposing the latter.”

Educational Research Analysts is one of the oldest right-wing textbook censorship organizations in the country. Before their deaths in the early 2000s, the Gablers often got media attention with claims that public school textbooks were filled with hundreds of errors, although many of those so-called “errors” were mostly ideological objections to content. They rejected evolution and sex education and insisted that textbooks promote their version of Judeo-Christian morality, a conservative interpretation of the Constitution, and a right-wing view of economics and regulation. And they sometimes succeeded in bullying publishers into bowing to their demands to change textbook content.

Neal Frey, a longtime textbook reviewer for the Gablers, now runs the organization in Longview. He continues to have the ear of far-right members of the State Board of Education, which adopts textbooks for Texas public schools. The state board is set to adopt new social studies and history textbooks this year. The deadline for publishers to submit those textbooks for state approval was April 18.

Educational Research Analysts’ “critique” of how Reconstruction is covered in current history textbooks notes that the American Revolution was justified by British policies like taxation without consent, basing troops in the colonies, improper seizure of private property, and punishment without trial by jury. It then argues that former Confederate states and white southerners suffered from similar outrages during Reconstruction. The organization’s list of complaints includes:

  • Denying the vote to “Southerners who had voluntarily aided the Confederacy” in its bloody rebellion and levying “huge tax increases” on the South.
  • “Depriving the South of its natural leaders” by barring ex-Confederates from public office if they had previously “sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution” — an oath, it’s important to note, that they broke by taking up arms against their country.
  • Enforcing a military occupation of the South. ERA fails to note that white southerners had, in the first years after the war ended, engaged in systematic efforts to oppress newly freed African Americans through Black Codes and other measures, including violence and terror campaigns that southern authorities often ignored or abetted.
  • Transfering private property “previously owned by Southern whites” to newly freed African Americans, a practice ERA claims “unconstitutionally punished the previous landowner.” Of course, those landowners had previously enslaved the African Americans who received that property.
  • Requiring former Confederate states to ratify the 14th Amendment — which gave citizenship to freed African Americans — before rejoining the Union.

ERA goes on to say — correctly – that Reconstruction failed to “achieve racial justice.” But that’s largely because progress toward that end collapsed with the end of Reconstruction. After Union troops were withdrawn – ending an occupation criticized by ERA — southern whites proceeded snuff out almost completely the legal rights and protections African Americans had gained.

It’s clear that the right’s campaign to rewrite history will be a major part of the battle over new social studies textbooks this year. That’s why TFN will be devoting substantial resources to that battle. We’ll have more on that soon.

Posted in Educational Research Analysts, Neal Frey, TFNEF | 6 Comments

Rafael Cruz Falsely Claims San Antonio Will Fine Pastors Who Preach Against Homosexuality

Rafael Cruz, the father of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, is joining David Barton in spreading blatant mistruths about San Antonio’s revised Nondiscrimination Ordinance. That ordinance now bars discrimination against LGBT people in employment, housing and public accommodations.

Barton told hundreds of pastors gathered in Austin earlier this month that the ordinance bars anyone who criticizes homosexuality and same-sex marriage from serving on the San Antonio City Council. That is an outright falsehood.

But now Cruz claims that the ordinance allows pastors to be fined for criticizing homosexuality. Our friends at Right Wing Watch quote Cruz speaking on a conference call last week for the right-wing group Tea Party Unity:

“All we have to do is turn on the news and every day we see more and more encroachment upon pastors from this administration. All they have to do is be aware of what’s happening around us and to be aware, for example, that in the city of San Antonio, if a pastor speaks on Romans 1, he could be even fined $500 a day until he retracts what he said.”

As Right Wing Watch points out, some interpret Romans 1 as a condemnation of homosexuality.

Rick Scarborough, the East Texas pastor who founded Tea Party Unity, joined Cruz on the call in trying to scare pastors. Scarborough claimed that the “lesbian mayor of Houston” will impose a similar “sanctions [on pastors] if they preach the Bible.”

First, the San Antonio ordinance in no way bars pastors from preaching against homosexuality. The claim that they would be fined for doing so is false. Moreover, Mayor Annise Parker’s proposed new Equal Rights Ordinance in Houston, which also includes nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people as well as others, includes no such penalties for pastors who preach against homosexuality.

Cruz, Scarborough and Barton, along with other religious-righters, are simply making stuff up in a fear-mongering, misinformation campaign – a campaign that is as unsurprising (coming from them) as it is repugnant.

You can read the full Right Wing Watch post here.

Posted in Rafael Cruz, Rick Scarborough, TFNEF | 2 Comments

Rafael Cruz: Separation of Church and State Is a ‘One-Way Wall’

David Barton wasn’t the only prominent speaker (see here, here and here) at the Texas Renewal Project event on April 3-4 in Austin. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and Rafael Cruz, father of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, were among the list of right-wing evangelical speakers at the gathering of hundreds of pastors and their spouses.

Huckabee has been a regular speaker at many Renewal Project events around the country. Mixing in a variety of jokes during his talk in Austin, Huckabee still focused on abortion and same-sex marriage. For example, Huckabee suggested that women who get abortions are “probably” pressured into doing so:

“I do suggest that you always remind the people in your church that in every abortion there are two victims. One is the baby, and one is most often that birth mother who probably was pressured into the decision by a mother, a grandmother, a boyfriend, or by a husband.”

Huckabee also criticized judges who rule in favor of marriage equality for same-sex couples:

“We have allowed people in black robes, unelected in most cases, unaccountable for their decisions, to overturn not only the will of the people, but to attempt to overturn the word of the living God.”

Rafael Cruz, a Dallas pastor and director of Purifying Fire Ministries, has become known for his outrageous statements about President Obama, evolution and other topics. He insisted at the Austin event that separation of church and state isn’t in the Constitution but that, even if it were, it would be only “one way” (from the audio clip above; emphasis added):

“And if you read Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists, it is absolutely clear when he says that matters of faith and worship, no one has the right to interfere; they’re only between you and God. And then he cites the First Amendment of the Constitution. It is absolutely clear when he said legislature has no right to establish a religion or interfere with the free exercise there of, thus there is a wall of separation between church and state, it is absolutely obvious that Jefferson was talking about a one-way wall, a one-way wall to keep government from interfering in the [inaudible because of applause]. In no way, shape or form was Jefferson implying that we should not have an influence on every area of society. God has called us to be the head and not the tail, not only in the church, but also in the media, in arts and entertainment, in sports, in business, in education and even in government.”

This is, of course, the core strategy of religious-righters: use government to promote their ideological agenda while insisting that government otherwise leave them alone.

Posted in Mike Huckabee, Rafael Cruz, Texas Renewal/Restoration Project, TFNEF | 13 Comments

Barton Repeats False Claim about Ban on Military Chaplains Praying to Jesus

During his talks at the Texas Renewal Project on April 3-4 in Austin, David Barton didn’t just mislead hundreds of pastors and their spouses about San Antonio’s new nondiscrimination ordinance or use the Bible to justify right-wing policies on taxation. He also repeated a favorite falsehood of the religious right about the U.S. military supposedly censoring Christian pastors. Barton told the pastors in Austin audience that military chaplains “can’t mention Jesus in a prayer”:

“The last two years the biggest debate has been over the rights of conscience. You see, two years ago when we did this… the issue was chaplains are being told, ‘You cannot use the word Jesus when you pray. We’ll tell you what words to pray, and you can’t use the word Jesus.’ Wait a minute. We’ve got chaplains for all faiths. We’ve got military chaplains that are Hindus, that are Buddhists, that are Muslims… Because whatever soldiers there want to be [garbled] according to their faith. About 88 percent of American soldiers are Christians, so 88 percent of our chaplains tend to be Christians, and that’s what they minister to. So you got Christian folks come to a Christian chaplain and have Christian chaplains who are saying, ‘hey, when you do your services, you can’t mention Jesus in a prayer.’ What? Where did this come from?”

Once again, Barton is twisting the truth. His distortions here are similar to claims from email spam and right-wing bloggers about the ACLU and others supposedly insisting that the military muzzle Christian pastors. But fact checkers have repeated debunked those claims as untrue. See here and here, for example.

In fact, military chaplains are not barred from mentioning or praying to Jesus at Christian services. Air Force chaplain James Bradfield is just one minister frustrated by the falsehoods Barton and others on the right have been pushing. As Bradfield suggests, military chaplains are often called on to speak at various events, not just church services, with audiences made up of people from various religious backgrounds (emphasis added):

It would surely be offensive if a large group of Christians were ordered to attend a meeting and the chaplain prayed in the name of Allah. If soldiers were ordered to be in a meeting, there should be a level playing field. The chaplain may pray, but not necessarily use the name of Jesus.

Soldiers that represent a variety of faith groups can still stand with their chaplains who might allude to Jesus by saying such things as ‘in the Name of the Almighty God, the God above all Gods, the God who loves.’

For the military to have a chaplain open a meeting in prayer is significant and positive. The commanders do not have to include this in the order of business. However, they do by custom ask chaplains to call on God for blessings of those present and the business at hand.

These meetings are very different from a worship service. Regulations do not and should not address corporate worship. The chaplain is there free to pray in whatever manner is appropriate. The chaplain that confuses these two opportunities is disrespecting non-Christians and probably alienates them from potential interaction.

Christians should be careful not to look foolish to the world by passing around inaccurate emails. Chaplains can pray in the name of Jesus, depending on the occasion.

So is Barton — who calls himself a historian — getting his “facts” from spam emails? Or did he really know the truth but chose to mislead hundreds of pastors anyway?

In either case, the reality is Christian chaplains can pray to Jesus at Christian services. They simply must respect non-Christians at events with an ostensibly secular purpose or a religiously diverse audience.

Imagine what Barton would say if a Muslim chaplain prayed to Allah or otherwise demonstrated his Islamic beliefs at an event attended by Christians. In fact, you don’t have to imagine. Barton was critical when Congressman Keith Ellison, D-Minn., who is Muslim, chose to take his oath of office by placing his hand on the Quran (Koran) instead of the Bible in 2007. A number of right-wing Christians criticized Ellison, and Barton laid the blame for the “controversy” at the congressman’s feet:

Ellison may not have the same beliefs as the Muslims who openly decry and even attack America; nevertheless, their behavior reflects on him. It is therefore understandable that citizens outside his district are highly concerned. This concern was heightened by the fact that Ellison himself publicly flaunted his abrogation of American precedent by making his swearing-in on the Koran a national issue. After all, the ceremonial swearing-in is always a private ceremony, and what he did there would not have been an issue; however, he chose to make that private ceremony a public demonstration in the face of all Americans. Did any of the other 434 Members make a national issue of what they would do in their private swearing-in? No, only Ellison; he therefore should not decry the national controversy that he created.

Furthermore, the religion of Islam, both past and present, has yet to demonstrate that it is friendly to a free government and a free people.

Of course, it wasn’t Ellison who made his oath a national issue — religious-righters like Barton did that. Moreover, Ellison is no more to blame for the murderous acts of Muslim terrorists than Barton is to blame for the murderous acts of Christian terrorists in Ireland and other parts of the world. But Barton’s words give aid and comfort to bigots who see Ellison’s place in Congress as a threat simply because the congressman is Muslim. Moreover, his distortions are designed to rile up pastors and make it easier to persuade them to return home and drag their churches into partisan politics.

Posted in David Barton, Texas Renewal/Restoration Project, TFNEF | 4 Comments

The Week in Quotes (April 13 – 19)

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

David Barton’s Tall Tales for Texas Pastors: Bible Verses in the Constitution, Bible Teachings on Taxes

We told you some of the whoppers David Barton shamelessly spouted to hundreds of pastors and their spouses at the Texas Renewal Project event in Austin on April 3-4. His dishonest claims on Thursday evening that someone who criticizes homosexuality is barred from running for the San Antonio City Council were clearly designed to rile up conservative pastors at the gathering. But when Barton returned to the podium on Friday, he vomited out even more nonsense — this time explicitly trying to tie the Bible to a conservative political agenda.

Barton suggested that too many Americans don’t vote the right way because they are “biblically illiterate.” And the reason they supposedly don’t know much about the Bible, he insisted, is because public schools don’t teach students about it. Barton, who absurdly served as an “expert” adviser when the Texas State Board of Education revised social studies curriculum standards in 2009-10, even invented an example — suggesting that he faced opposition when he proposed requiring textbooks to identify civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. as a minister:

“They said ‘we can’t put reverend doctor in the textbook. What are you thinking? We can’t call Dr. Martin Luther King a pastor.’ He was! ‘Yeah, but we can’t put that in the textbooks.’ We work out tails off to make sure we don’t talk about God in America. It’s amazing how far we’ve gone in that direction.”

Barton is making this up. We recall no such debate during the curriculum standards revision four years ago, and we monitored it from beginning to end. In fact, textbooks — including those used in Texas classrooms today – already did identify King as a minister. We know. We checked. Moreover, open up just about any American history textbook and flip through the index. You’ll find numerous references to the influence of religion in our nation’s history.

But Barton didn’t stop there. He went on to insist that the Constitution includes Bible verses throughout (text from the video clip above):

“If you know the Bible, and if you will read the Constitution, remembering what the Bible says, you will find Bible verse after Bible verse throughout the Constitution. The problem we have is people say this is a secular document, it’s a Godless document…. When somebody today tells me the Constitute is a secular document or it’s a Godless document, they have just told me that they are biblically illiterate. They wouldn’t recognize a Bible verse if it bit them in the ankle because they’re all over the Constitution, but we just don’t recognize the Bible anymore so we call it a secular document and people buy into that because they don’t know the Bible well enough.”

Bible verses in the Constitution? This isn’t a new distortion. Our friends at Right Wing Watch have noted (see here and here) Barton making the same claim to gullible audiences in the past.

But Barton didn’t stop there either. He argued that the Bible makes clear how Christians should vote on public policies, such as taxes. Remember that Barton served as vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party for nearly a decade. So it shouldn’t be surprising that Barton essentially told pastors that the GOP’s positions on taxation are supported by the Bible. He started by talking about the federal tax and spending deal made between President Obama and congressional Republicans in January 2013:

“What happened in this fiscal cliff deal, for the first time in American history, we made the estate tax a permanent tax…. The Bible singles out the estate tax as one of the most immoral type of taxes that can be placed on the nation. Shouldn’t have an estate tax. We just made it for the first time in history a permanent tax. We also took the capital gains tax and we raised it higher than any other nation in the world…. Jesus has two entire teachings condemning the capital gains tax. And we’ve got things like progressive taxes. You see, we went from three types of progressive taxes to five types of progressive taxes in the fiscal cliff bill…. The Bible condemns progressive taxation and affirms capitation taxation. The Bible is so good on economics. That’s why we built our free market system on the Bible. But today we’re biblically illiterate and don’t know that these aren’t political issues. These are biblical issues. The Bible talks about economics.”

The fiscal cliff deal made the estate tax permanent “for the first time in American history”? Barton pretends to be a historian, but he shows over and over again that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about (or that he is lying). Congress instituted the modern estate tax in 1916. The federal government has had other versions of estate taxes as far back as 1797. The Bush tax cuts in the early 2000s led to elimination of the estate tax in 2010, but it returned in 2011.

In any case, Barton’s message to pastors was hardly subtle: good Christians support the Republican Party because the GOP’s positions are biblically based. Utterly shameless. What was even more astonishing, however, is that the hundreds of pastors in the audience didn’t storm out in anger over Barton treating them like gullible fools who’ll believe anything he says.

We’ve got more coming. Stay tuned.

Posted in David Barton, Texas Renewal/Restoration Project, TFNEF | 10 Comments

David Barton Shamelessly Misleads Hundreds of Pastors at Big Texas Renewal Project Event

When hundreds of pastors and their spouses descended on Austin on April 3-4 for a Texas Renewal Project event, it was clear that the effort to drag houses of worship into partisan politics was kicking into high gear for the 2014 elections. But we were stunned by the sheer audacity of speakers who told the gathered pastors one mistruth after another — all designed to rile up pastors and encourage them to turn their congregations into political machines.

Some of the most outrageous comments came from David Barton, the religious right’s favorite phony historian and founder of WallBuilders, the Texas-based organization that argues separation of church and state is a myth. Laurence White, a Houston pastor who headed up the Texas Renewal Project’s predecessor organization, the Texas Restoration Project, introduced Barton:

“He knows more about the Founding Fathers than George Washington does. He is the most articulated, informed, knowledgeable defender of America’s Christian heritage and the values and the truths and the convictions that shaped and brought this country into being. I’m proud to call him my friend and the greatest historian of the Founding Fathers I’ve ever known.”

“Greatest historian”? Oh please. Scholars and other writers have picked Barton’s shabby, politicized “work” to pieces. Moreover, Christian publisher Thomas Nelson ceased publication of Barton’s book about Thomas JeffersonThe Jefferson Lies, in 2012 after scholars pointed out that it contained numerous errors and distortions. (And, of course, there is the ongoing embarrassment over Barton speaking at events sponsored by white supremacist groups in the early 1990s.)

But Barton, who served from 1997 to 2006 as vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party, is nothing if not shameless. He spoke to the pastors several times during the two-day Austin event. During his first spell at the podium, Barton immediately launched into an attack on San Antonio’s newly revised Nondiscrimination Ordinance (NDO), which now bars discrimination against LGBT people and military veterans in employment, housing and public accommodations. (The city already barred discrimination based on other characteristics, including race, gender and religion.)

Not content with simply disagreeing with efforts to treat LGBT people equally under the law, Barton proceeded to break (repeatedly) one of the Ten Commandments — the one that forbids lying — in front of all those pastors. Speaking just after former Republican Congressman JC Watts of Oklahoma, Barton absurdly claimed that Watts — who opposes marriage equality for same-sex couples — would be barred from serving on the San Antonio City Council because of the new nondiscrimination ordinance (text below from the video at the top of this post; emphasis added):

“The problem is, under the Nondiscrimation Ordinance that they just passed in San Antonio, if you did what JC did tonight and if you stand up for traditional marriage – marriage is a man and a woman – you are dismissed from office in San Antonio under the new city law. So JC, even though he’s elected by an overwhelming majority in San Antonio, he’s out the door. ‘You can’t do that. The people elected him.’ Yeah, but the new law in San Antonio says if you criticize homosexuality or homosexual marriage, you are dismissed from office.”

The crowd let out an audible gasp — as it should have because what Barton said isn’t true. Nothing in the ordinance bars someone who opposes marriage equality for lesbian and gay people from serving on the San Antonio City Council. But Barton doubled down, suggesting what would happen if he ran for office in San Antonio:

“I decide I’m going to run for City Council in San Antonio but they have found that what I’m saying tonight is criticizing homosexuality, I am barred from running for office in San Antonio.”

Not a word of that was true. But Barton continued on, distorting what the ordinance in San Antonio really does — and, of course, riling up the bamboozled pastors at the same time.

And so it went throughout the talks by Barton and other right-wing evangelicals. Speaker after speaker painted a picture of America hurdling down the path to destruction, spiritually and otherwise. The Texas Observer accurately described the overwhelming anxiety that seemed to pervade the ballroom:

“The message on offer is grim and fearful. This is a room full of people that are falling out of love with their country. It used to be a place that held promise for them and their cohort. But it’s changed, dramatically and for the worse, and the pastors don’t know if they can get it back in time.”

Among the biggest complaints were, as one country preacher said to the audience, the “HO-MO-sexual movement” and the “abortion people.”

The government is telling Americans “you’ve got to kill children,” declared Mat Staver, dean of law at the late Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University. He was complaining about the federal requirement that employer-provided health insurance plans include coverage for birth control. (Staver also founded the right-wing litigation group Liberty Counsel.)

Staver went on to compare — bizarrely — the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal to the infamous 1857 Dred Scott case. In that latter case the Court ruled that African-Americans — free or enslaved — had no legal standing in federal courts because they weren’t U.S. citizens. Same thing, right?

Other speakers also played on the pastors’ fear and anxiety over a shifting legal and cultural landscape in America. Jason Taylor, pastor of the Barnone Cowboy Church in East Texas, put the issue in dire terms. “You take a stand!” he thundered:

“And don’t you waver and don’t you move, and you die standing your ground! That’s what this state, by golly, was founded on. That’s what’s in my blood right there. I ain’t moving! I will not be moved. I will die standing the ground for my children and my children’s children. I’m not moving.”

And, of course, speakers encouraged pastors to return home and politicize their congregations. Staver even argued that federal regulations against tax-exempt churches engaging in lobbying and partisan elections are toothless and easy to get around: “You could literally turn your church into a lobbying machine,” Staver declared.

Dragging churches into partisan politics was, of course, the primary reason for the Austin event. TFN exposed the Texas Restoration Project as a front group supporting Gov. Perry’s 2006 re-election campaign. Organizers under that banner hosted six “Pastors’ Policy Briefings” in Austin, Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and San Antonio the year before. Speaker after speaker praised Perry, who had a featured speaking slot at all of the events. In fact, TFN later discovered that major Perry campaign donors funneled money through a private Houston foundation (now defunct) to cover the $1.2 million it cost to hold those events.

The Texas Restoration Project served as a model for state Renewal Projects in a number of presidential election battleground states in 2008 and 2012. The main organizer, David Lane, has used those events to build a massive pastor contact list. And each event featured favored Republican candidates as well as speakers urging pastors to politicize their churches.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican nominee for governor this year, was scheduled to speak at this year’s Austin event, but he ended up sending his wife instead. U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz made remarks by video and introduced his father, Rafael Castro, who spoke on the second day. Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and a number of right-wing pastors also spoke. Over the next few days we’ll report more about what they told the pastors and their spouses.

Posted in David Barton, Laurence White, Mat Staver, Texas Renewal/Restoration Project, TFNEF | 40 Comments

Haters Criticize Celebration for LGBT Graduates at Texas A&M

Religious-right activists are predictably outraged that LGBT students at Texas A&M will celebrate their spring graduation at a special campus event today (April 16). The university’s GLBT Resource Center is sponsoring the banquet, dubbed Lavender Graduation, this evening. Phyllis Frye, an A&M alum and the state’s first transgender judge, will be the featured speaker. (Frye’s appointment in 2010 as a municipal judge in Houston also sparked predictable outrage from religious-righters. They always seem to be mad about something.)

Students won’t receive their diplomas at the Lavender Graduation event. The university’s official commencement ceremony is in May. Lavender Graduation is simply a celebration, much like those hosted by other student organizations and academic departments at Texas A&M and on other campuses around the country. But anti-gay activists are attacking it anyway.

One News Now, the propaganda website for American Family Association (which the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified as an anti-gay hate group), quotes one of the most obnoxious voices of hate in Texas in a story about the event:

Regardless of the motive, Jonathan Saenz, president of Texas Values, says this is foolhardy.

“This special Texas A&M ceremony essentially promotes and celebrates dangerous and risky sexual activity that can fiercely jeopardize a person’s well-being,” he tells OneNewsNow. “I’m not sure this is the most responsible way for a university to prepare students for the real world.”

Saenz also points out an issue that he believes introduces a problem for the school as it promotes the LGBT lifestyle: Texas recently passed an amendment to its constitution banning same-sex marriage.

“It would seem that groups like this at Texas A&M do not support our state law,” he suggests. “And so I would understand why students would be concerned that their fees would give the impression of being used to really advocate against clearly established law.”

Religious-right activists like Saenz seem to be obsessed by gay sex and LGBT relationships. It’s as if they see every occasion — even a graduation celebration, for Pete’s sake — as an opportunity to talk about both. (Frankly, it’s kind of creepy.)

Most Americans have grown tired of political activists who try to stigmatize and marginalize LGBT people. Public polling shows this pretty clearly. And poll after poll also shows that most Americans — by a substantial and growing margin — support marriage equality for all.

The Texas Freedom Network congratulates all of this spring’s graduates — LGBT or otherwise — and we wish nothing but success and happiness for them as they move on to their next adventures. We also wish the haters out there would get a life — or at least stop obsessing over and interfering in the lives of people they don’t like.

Posted in Jonathan Saenz, LGBT issues, Texas Values, TFNEF | 5 Comments

Lawsuit Alleges San Antonio Religious-Right Leader Treated Young Follower Like a ‘Personal Sex Object’

In November we told you that Doug Phillips had acknowledged engaging in an extramarital affair and stepped down from his position as head of a San Antonio-based religious-right organization called Vision Forum. Now a lawsuit alleges that Phillips engaged in ““inappropriate, unwanted, and immoral sexual acts” with a girl he had groomed as a “personal sex object” from the age of 15.

If true, the lawsuit’s allegations would be a bombshell for a man with a history of making incendiary statements about the morals of others. In 2009, for example, he mocked an abortion provider, Dr. George Tiller, who was murdered in his own church, by calling him “Tiller the Killer” and saying his death wasn’t a tragedy. He has also complained about the “intellectual and moral bankruptcy” of people who accept the science of evolution and see no conflict between science and faith.

Our friends at Right Wing Watch have a detailed report on the lawsuit here. (Warning: Some of the language in the lawsuit is graphic.) Excerpts from their post:

The lawsuit, which includes counts of sexual battery and assault, details the “inappropriate, unwanted, and immoral sexual acts committed by Douglas Phillips against Ms. Torres,” noting that Phillips “methodically groomed Ms. Torres” since she was 15 years old “so that she would eventually participate in illicit sexual rendezvous with him promising that she could one day marry him” and “repeatedly told Torres that this was possible because his wife, Beall Phillips, was going to die soon.”

The lawsuit contends that Phillips worked to “indoctrinate [Torres] with the patriarchal mindset” and “subtly began to manipulate Ms. Torres, so that he could use her for his sexual gratification. This calculated, planned, and methodical grooming process went on for many years.”

“Douglas Phillips used Ms. Torres—against her wishes and over her objections—as a personal sex object. Douglas Phillips repeatedly groped, rubbed, and touched Ms. Torres’s crotch, breasts, and other areas of her body; rubbed his penis on her; masturbated on her; forced her to watch him masturbate on her; and ejaculated upon her. This perverse and offensive conduct repeatedly took place over the course of several years,” the lawsuit reads.

Torres’ lawyers write that even after Vision Forum’s board was informed of Phillips’ alleged actions, “the board of Vision Forum Ministries decided to keep Phillips in the company’s highest position of leadership. This move is consistent with the ideals and beliefs of the patriarchal movement: that women exist solely for the control and pleasure of the men.” The board only took action when it became “apparent that Phillips’s behavior toward Ms. Torres could no longer remain confidential.”

The lawsuit also goes into detail on the ways the Quiverfull movement manipulates and shames women, imposing “absolute control of women” while cutting them off from “access to outside intervention and support.” It alleges that Phillips’ wife sent Torres a threatening email in an attempt to silence her.

Vision Forum has shut down since Phillips stepped down last fall.

Posted in Doug Phillips, TFNEF, Vision Forum Ministries | 5 Comments