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.

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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:

TEXANS DEMAND ACCESS TO REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH CARE

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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

Talking Points

From today’s TFN News Clips:

“We declare this state to be the sovereign territory of Jesus Christ.”

— A pastor speaking at Tuesday’s Texas Faith and Family Day at the Texas Capitol, a religious-right event attended by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and a number of other Republican lawmakers.

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

Posted in Talking Points, TFNEF | 1 Comment

#JeSuisAppalled

The Texas-based, religious-right group Liberty Institute has hit a repulsive new low: equating the firing of an anti-gay sports commentator/politician in the United States with the January massacre of 17 people by Islamic extremists in France.

In a series of tweets this month, Liberty Institute has been claiming that sports commentator Craig James of Texas and two other people have lost their jobs because of their Christian beliefs. The latest such tweet was this morning:

It is tyranny: freedom for thee only if you agree with me. http://bit.ly/1zWz7Ag #JeSuisBob #JeSuisCraigJames #JeSuisEricWalsh

First, the claims about why these individuals lost their jobs is in dispute. But in any case, note that each of the tweets includes hashtags that play off #JeSuisCharlieHebdo, a hashtag that went viral after the massacre at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The Paris attacks also included murders at a Kosher deli and of a policewoman near a Jewish school. (A shrine in memory of the 17 victims of the terrorist attacks has been vandalized in recent weeks.)

You might recall that James has charged that Fox Sports wrongly fired him because of anti-gay comments he made during his run for a U.S. Senate seat in Texas in 2012. James and Liberty Institute, which represents him, claim that the firing amounted to religious discrimination. Liberty Institute’s tweets note two other individuals the group claims have lost their jobs because they expressed their religious beliefs about various topics, particularly homosexuality and evolution.

As we have said, honest people can disagree about whether Fox should have canned James. But the network didn’t fire him because of his religious beliefs. They discharged James because they thought his intolerant and offensive public statements about gay people and his advocacy of certain public policies would hurt their business. After all, having a commentator who alienates potential viewers with his controversial political comments is a risky thing. Similar things happened over the years to commentators who have made offensive statements on matters like race and gender.

And James’ political statements have been controversial. He has said — during political campaign debates — that gay people choose their sexual orientation and “are going to have to answer to the Lord for their actions.” He also has expressed opposition to any legal recognition for same-sex couples, including civil unions. James has used the controversy over his remarks and political positions to bolster his support among far-right activists.

But whatever one thinks about James and what he has said, it’s vulgar and appalling to equate his firing to the brutal, senseless slaughter of 17 innocent people by religious extremists. Frankly, James should be ashamed that Liberty Institute is making such a comparison in some bizarre attempt to turn him into a Christian martyr. What’s next? Equating him to Joan of Arc? St. Peter?

What Liberty Institute is doing here is insulting and offensive to the victims of terrorism in France and, frankly, anywhere in the world. And it’s one more reasons Texans should take a very skeptical view of anything that organization says or does.

Posted in Craig James, LGBT issues, Liberty Institute, TFNEF | 2 Comments

The Week in Quotes (Feb. 15 – 21)

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

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VIDEO: Rev. Leslie Jackson at Faith Advocacy Day

This video is of Rev. Leslie Jackson of United Church of Christ in Houston. Rev. Jackson was one of the featured speakers at Faith Advocacy Day, a gathering at the Texas Capitol of people of faith and faith leaders who support full equality for LGBT Texans. A transcript of his remarks can be found below.

We are here today to assert that our faith does not undermine LGBT Equality in the state of Texas, it supports it. LGBT Equality is not a distant cousin to faith, it is its progeny. Our advocacy and relentless pursuit of equality in this state, is a call that joins in the tradition of civil rights leaders and all those who have sought to create a better society for all citizens. We join our voices with all those throughout history who have cried: “We demand equality!”

Equality is righteous, it is justice, and it is God in action. We oppose the use of power to discriminate against our neighbors, friends, and family. We will not stand for it, we won’t sit for it, we won’t roll over and play dead, nor will we be complicit in such sinfulness. Instead, we will work to extinguish the sinful flame of discrimination. Together…

We demand equality!

Today, we stand, on the precipice of a new and holy moment in this nation – a moment where the fundamental civil right to marry whom you love will be extended to all citizens. Many of us here today have taught, preached and affirmed the righteousness of marriage equality for many years. And we are prepared to continue this refrain until love wins the day and marriage equality is the law of the land in this state and every state. Together…

We demand equality!

But it’s not just marriage that brings us to the Capitol steps. We also say no one should be turned away from a job or denied a place to live just because of who they are. Surely all of our diverse faith traditions and differing beliefs can come together around this simple value: having a roof over your head and keeping a job should not be based on what you look like or who you love. Together…

We demand equality!

As religious leaders, we strongly affirm that religious freedom for all is a fundamental American value, a heritage that has been a great gift to both the church and state in this country. But let us be clear: treating our LGBT brothers and sisters differently based on who they are is not religious freedom – it is discrimination. Together…

We demand equality!

This day, we gather, as faith leaders, and we raise our voices so those entrusted with the power to make laws will know that Methodists, Jews, Baptists, Sikhs, Presbyterians, Buddhists, Lutherans, Unitarians, Episcopalians and leaders of religious communities across Texas demand that each and every person in this state be treated fairly, equally and with respect. Together…

We demand equality!

And though we speak out of our personal religious convictions, we welcome all people of goodwill to join us in this commitment to create the beloved community in which everyone flourishes. We invite you to join us in this call to acknowledge the worth and dignity of all families under the law and to stand against discrimination based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
If this is your vision of the beloved community, join with us now as we all say:

We demand equality!

Again

We demand equality!

Now, let it resound loud as the rolling thunder, again…

We demand equality!

And so it is! Amen!

Posted in 2015 Texas Legislature, LGBT issues, TFN | 3 Comments

Faith Leaders Speak Out for LGBT Equality in Texas

FaithLeaders_LGBTequalityHundreds of clergy and other faith leaders from Protestant, Catholic, Unitarian and Jewish congregations gathered today at the Texas Capitol to speak out for LGBT equality. The Texas Freedom Network co-sponsored the event with Equality Texas. Here’s the press release we sent out:

FAITH LEADERS CALL FOR EQUALITY FOR LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL AND TRANSGENDER TEXANS

Discrimination Should Be Unacceptable to People of Faith, Speakers Tell Crowd at Texas Capitol

With political battles over marriage and nondiscrimination measures heating up, hundreds of clergy and other people of faith gathered at the Texas Capitol today to call on lawmakers to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

Speaking at an event on the Capitol steps, the Rev. Eric Folkerth of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas noted the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members of his own congregation.

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

United Church of Christ minister Leslie Jackson of Houston called on Texans to embrace marriage equality for LGBT people and oppose discrimination in employment and housing.

“No one should be turned away from a job or denied a place to live just because of who they are,” Jackson said at the Capitol event. “Surely all of our diverse faith traditions and differing beliefs can come together around this simple value: having a roof over your head and keeping a job should not be based on what you look like or who you love.”

The Rev. Michael Diaz of Resurrection MCC of Houston echoed his colleagues.

“Like the majority of people across this great state, we believe our religious faith should lead us to anti-discriminatory love, not unjust discriminatory laws and practices,” Diaz said. “No one’s religious beliefs should trump the civil rights of another.”

Following the event on the Capitol steps, advocates representing scores of congregations from around the state dispersed throughout the Capitol, visiting legislative offices to spread the message of support for LGBT equality.

Lawmakers this session are considering measures that would, among other things, bar state contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and open the door to marriage equality for same-sex couples.

On the other hand, legislators are also considering measures that would gut local nondiscrimination ordinances. For example, proposed constitutional amendments – SJR 10 and HJR 55 – would allow individuals and businesses to ignore almost any laws, including nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people, for religious reasons.

In addition, HB 623 by state Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, would strip salary and benefits from any public employee who complies with a future court decision overturning the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Speakers at the Capitol event urged people of faith to visit TexasBelieves.org to sign up in support of LGBT equality and against discriminatory laws.

Equality Texas and Texas Freedom Network are co-sponsors of Faith Advocacy Day. Advocates were joined by a large group of representatives from the Texas Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry as well as leaders from Texas Catholics for Inclusion.

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

The Constitution or ‘God’s Law’?

Speaking Sunday on Fox News, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore declared that he will continue to reject any federal court rulings that state same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional. Why? God’s law (as he interprets it) trumps everything:

“This power over marriage, which came from God under our organic law, is not to be redefined by the United States Supreme Court or any federal court.”

Moore clearly has the same disregard for separation of church and state that other religious-righters do. Consider, for example, similar arguments made by David Barton — head of Texas-based WallBuilders and something like the propaganda minister for the religious right in America — against same-sex marriage:

“From a constitutional standpoint, you cannot exclude morals. A number of conservative libertarians in recent months have been saying ‘hey, marriage is not a constitutional issue’ … yet it is because Article 7 of the Constitutional through the attestation clause incorporates the Declaration [of Independence] into the Constitution.

The Declaration erects the moral standard by talking about the laws of nature and of nature’s god.  Marriage has always been defined not only as a law of nature – now, it’s not necessarily in nature, but they called it a natural law that you should be married to one man, one woman because that is what divine law says; the laws of the god who created nature, the law of nature’s god even in the very beginning said one man, one woman, this is good. Jesus reiterated that in Matthew 19 and other places.

So the moral standard, the moral law dictates that marriage is between and man and a woman.  That was then incorporated into the Constitution in the Seventh Amendment in what was called the common law. The common law is part of the legal process. And if you look at the common law all the way through time, marriage has been part of the common that.  That is why you do not allow bigamy or polygamy or other forms of ‘igamy’ that attack marriage.  Marriage is a man and a woman as part of the common law that’s part of the Constitution.”

Our friends at Right Wing Watch summarize Barton’s argument:

“As Barton sees it, the 7th Amendment’s language regarding ‘in suits at common law’ means that the Constitution incorporates all of natural law into our legal system, and since common law is based on God’s law, our entire system of government is really based on God’s law.  And thus gay marriage can never be constitutional because it is a violation of God’s law.”

Well, David, that’s not how it works. No matter how much you try to distort history, our nation’s founders very deliberately wrote a Constitution that did not favor any particular religion or its specific teachings. The Constitution protects the rights of all Americans, regardless of their religious beliefs (if any) and regardless of whether they live in Texas, in Alabama or in any other part of the United States.

History and the world today are full of examples of the negative consequences of putting government in the business of declaring which religious beliefs dictate the civil laws that everyone must obey. People like David Barton and Roy Moore have refused to learn that lesson.

Posted in church and state, LGBT issues, marriage equality, TFNEF | 3 Comments