Far Right Smears Clergy from Press Conference

Wow. It didn’t take long for far-right pressure groups to start smearing clergy members who want the Texas State Board of Education to stop trying to undermine religious freedom in social studies classrooms. Just minutes after the Texas Faith Network’s Capitol press conference today, the far right’s lies started flying across the Internet.

Jonathan Saenz, a lawyer/lobbyist for Liberty Institute, the Texas affiliate of the far-right Focus on the Family, claimed that the Christian and Jewish clergy who spoke at the press conference “personally attack(ed) the Christian faith of some State Board of Education members.” Really, Jonathan? How? When? It should be no surprise that he didn’t offer a shred of evidence for such an absurd and reckless charge. (Folks shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for Saenz to apologize to those clergy men and women.)

Saenz also had the gall to question the truthfulness of clergy speakers who want social studies classes to teach the truth about how the Founders barred government from promoting one religion over all others:

“Their version of this concept [separation of religion and state] would have been rejected by the Founders.  The problem for them is, their amendment language says this is what the Founders believed.  Untrue and factually and historically inaccurate.”

Unfortunately for Saenz, real historians (not propagandists like David Barton) strongly disagree. Moreover, as speakers pointed out at the press conference, members of the clergy themselves in America’s early years lobbied for protections for religious freedom like church-state separation.

And Saenz also posted this ridiculous criticism of one speaker at the press conference: “One clergy member even slammed his hand down on the podium to make his point.”

He “slammed his hand down”? Well, that’s just shocking! We wonder why the Capitol security simply didn’t have the minister arrested and led off in shackles.

Of course, we wonder how Saenz could be so sure of what happened at the press conference since he kept walking out of the room. We can only assume he couldn’t be bothered to listen to what he later wanted to criticize.

Dave Welch of the far-right Texas Pastor Council is hardly any better. Welch didn’t even attend the press conference, but he issued a press release harshly criticizing the clergy speakers for spreading “misinformation” from “anti-Christian attack groups like Texas Freedom Network.”

Yes, that’s right — religious righters believe that anyone who doesn’t share their own narrow ideological perspective is somehow “anti-Christian.” (Never mind, we suppose, that two speakers at the press conference — a Baptist minister and a Methodist minister — sit on TFN’s board of directors.)

But could Welch have been bothered to do at least a little research to get his historical facts right? At the end of his press release, Welch offered this nugget to suggest that the Founders wanted government to promote religion:

“The Northwest Ordinance, passed in 1787 by the same Congress which presented the Bill of Rights for ratification, declared that ‘Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.’”

Actually, that’s not accurate. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 was passed by the Congress seated under the Articles of Confederation. The first federal Congress under the Constitution sent the Bill of Rights to the states for ratification more than two years later. And the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights forbids government from promoting or disfavoring any one religion over all others in America. That’s a fact some state board members, Liberty Institute and Dave Welch simply don’t want students to learn in their social studies classrooms.

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11 Comments

  1. jdg
    Posted May 13, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    I think we need to stop calling Jonathan Saenz a “lawyer”. He’s a lobbyist, period. Maybe a LINO?? (Lawyer In Name Only)

  2. Kim Batchelor
    Posted May 13, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    Even if what Saenz and the smearers were saying was historically accurate, that the founding fathers were big supporters of the United States being a “Christian nation,” my question would be, What kind of Christianity are these people talking about? And how does it line of up the Christian beliefs of the founders? And how do the founders Christian beliefs (if they have them) line up with Scripture? And for those of us who are Christian but who really question how much what these folks advocate even remotely resembles the teachings of Jesus, what are we to do with this bad theology they’re promoting? If you ask me, they’ve created a religion in their own image and we’re all supposed to go along with their assertion that it had anything to do with the founding of this country. For the record: I believe that the prophet Amos is a good example of advocating for the separation of church and state when he stood outside the gates of power demanding that the king stop oppressing people and never demanded that he take a seat on the throne. (Courtesy of Dr. John Holbert of Perkins School of Theology) Or the Texas State Board of Education.

  3. Corey
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    “There is no changing a mind that has fallen off the deep end. We labor instead for the hearts and minds of the millions upon millions upon millions of American fence-sitters who have not fallen off that deep end and have a heart that is still susceptible to understanding God’s love and compassion.”

    You made me smile. Thank you, and well said. I’m not even Christian and that warmed my heart.

  4. Charles
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    Excuse me. I meant:

    The Religious Right has turned the Christian faith into a two-bit street corner whore for crooked politicians who value nothing but money, power, and war—and the leaders of the Religious Right have been beguiled by the crumbs that drop from their tables.

  5. Charles
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

    TFN said:

    “Wow. It didn’t take long for far-right pressure groups to start smearing clergy members who want the Texas State Board of Education to stop trying to undermine religious freedom in social studies classrooms.”

    No. It did not take long, and there was a good reason the Christian Neo-Fundamentalists were in a rapid and hysterical blather about it. It was all about one word. FEAR. The Religious Right has long feared that the mainline Christian denominations and Catholics will unite against them, operate in incessant public denunciations of the heretical Christian Neo-Fundamentalist faith positions, and begin operating against them on a planned and concerted daily basis. It is their worst nightmare, and something that looked very much like that nightmare happened today—and even worse— in front of the Texas State Legislature. Here is precisely what happened to the Religious Right in front of the Texas State Legislature today—PRECISELY. Join me for more text after the video:

    The Religious Right and their heresy will fall when nonheretical people of faith rise up against them and denounce them in public venues as they did today. All people who love Jesus have not jumped off the deep end and surrendered the central truths of their faith to the powers of this world. The Religious Right has turned the Christian faith into a two-bit street corner whore for crooked politicians who value nothing but many, power, and war—and the leaders of the Religious Right have been beguiled by the crumbs that drop from their tables.

    I remind you all of this much. We are not in a fight to change the minds of the followers of the Religious Right who have been duped by Satan. They are all sold out—toast. There is no changing a mind that has fallen off the deep end. We labor instead for the hearts and minds of the millions upon millions upon millions of American fence-sitters who have not fallen off that deep end and have a heart that is still susceptible to understanding God’s love and compassion.

  6. Forkboy1965
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    Oh David. How silly of you to assume facts have any bearing upon the minds of these people. Facts have never stood in the way of religion and the Republican religious right in particular.

    In their minds facts are whatever they believe and have little to no relationship with truth, honesty or…. facts.

  7. Cytocop
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    Y’all, I keep telling you: these kooky conservative Christians believe they are just too good to have to present any evidence to support their position. They’ve got GAWD on their side. They shouldn’t EVER have to stoop to present evidence. Whatever they think or say comes straight from GAWD HIMSELF!

    The presentation of evidence is necessary ONLY for those who oppose them.

    They are just so frickin’ good their poop smells like roses. In fact, they don’t even ever poop!

  8. David
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

    This country needs a true debate venue to get these kooks out into the open and expose their foolishness. Some kind of real public debate show, with professional fact checkers to judge veracity in real time.

  9. Posted May 12, 2010 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    Jonathan Saenz is the kind of “Christian” who lies like a rug, smearing Christianity by deliberately twisting facts that are, in fact, lies.

    Methinks that Jesus told his followers not to lie..Saenz is the anti-Christian.

  10. Ben
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Permalink
  11. Ben
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

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