Texas Home-School Lobby Group Misleads Parents as It Promotes the Culture Wars

The Texas Home School Coalition is a religious-right front group more interested in promoting a political agenda and fighting the culture wars than in ensuring kids get a good education. An email today from the group’s leader, Tim Lambert, demonstrates that point pretty clearly.

The email to the group’s list touts a series of events around the state designed to rally opposition to protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people from discrimination. As we reported last month, the tour also targets “adversaries” who support access to safe and legal abortion care for women in Texas. Neither of these issues has a thing to do with homeschooling.

Lambert’s email today focuses mostly on opposing the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO), which includes protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity as well as race, sex, age, military status and other characteristics. Lambert’s email claims that the ordinance represents a “radical homosexual position,” essentially arguing that protecting people from discrimination somehow threatens freedom:

I hope you will come to one of these gatherings in your area and listen to men and women of faith who are challenging Christians to become engaged in the battle for our culture and to protect our freedom.

Lambert also argues that passage of HERO last year and decisions in the courts (presumably including the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples) are the result of Christians not voting:

This means that a majority who hold biblical positions on many of the issues that are now rejected by more and more court rulings in this country are choosing to not take part in the process of setting those policies, because they are not participating in choosing officials who make those policies. Simply put, those with traditional biblical and Judeo-Christian historical values are not voting.

Well, we have news for Lambert. Many Christians and other people of faith support HERO. They believe discrimination is morally wrong and that we should all treat others as we wish to be treated — with equality, respect and dignity. And they have been speaking out in increasing numbers, including during this year’s legislative session in Austin, in favor of equality for all Texans.

The Texas Home School Coalition, like other religious-right groups, is using faith as a political weapon to divide Texans. Parents who home-school their children should feel betrayed — because they have been. The religious-right activists who claim to have their interests in mind are really interested only in using them to advance an extreme and dangerous political agenda that harms others simply because of who they are, whom they love or the medical care they seek.

Posted in abortion, Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, Texas Home School Coalition, TFNEF, Tim Lambert | 3 Comments

Houstonians Will Be Voting FOR the Equal Rights Ordinance in November

Houston Unites, which supports the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance on the November ballot, just sent out the following press release. The Texas Freedom Network is a member of the Houston Unites coalition.

The Texas Supreme Court this morning ruled that the majority of Houstonians who support the city’s Equal Rights Ordinance will be casting a ballot “for” the measure to keep it on the books.

“We’re eager for the majority of Houstonians to vote ‘FOR’ keeping the city’s valuable Equal Rights Ordinance,” said Richard Carlbom, campaign manager for Houston Unites. “Discrimination based on race, disability, military status, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age is not a Houston value and has no place in this city. A vote FOR HERO is a vote for treating everyone fairly and equally under the law.”

The Houston City Council will be deciding the final ballot language next week.

Voters this fall will decide whether they continue to support ending legal discrimination in employment, housing, and in restaurants and shops based on race, age, disability, veteran status, gender identity or sexual orientation. More than half of the claims, according City of Houston’s Office of the Inspector General, filed under HERO when it was on the books were based on racial discrimination.

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Houston Unites is the coalition working to elevate the diversity of voices supporting HERO. The leading coalition partners include: ACLU of Texas, Equality Texas, Freedom For All Americans, Human Rights Campaign, NAACP Houston Branch and Texas Freedom Network.

Posted in Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, TFN | 1 Comment

Reckless Texas Politicians, Religious-Right Group Just Cost Taxpayers $44,000

Days after the U.S.  Supreme Court ruled that gay and lesbian couples have the freedom to marry, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a formal opinion claiming that public officials could use their religious beliefs as an excuse for refusing to issue marriage licenses to or conduct weddings for same-sex couples. The Plano-based, religious-right group Liberty Institute also rushed forward with its lawyers to defend the “religious liberty” of public officials refusing to do their taxpayer-funded jobs.

All of those reckless efforts to subvert the Supreme Court’s ruling just cost taxpayers in Hood County southwest of Fort Worth nearly $44,000.

On Monday Hood County Commissioners agreed to pay the attorney fees — $43,872.10 — for a gay couple who sued after the county clerk, Katie Lang, repeatedly refused to issue them a marriage license. She claimed that issuing the license would offend her religious beliefs. Liberty Institute’s lawyers defended her and even used the case as a fundraising tool.

Now taxpayers in Hood County have to pay the penalty for such irresponsibility. They have Lang, Paxton and Liberty Institute to thank for that. Maybe someone should ask Liberty Institute to cover the cost with the money they raised off the case.

Posted in Liberty Institute, marriage equality, TFNEF | 7 Comments

Yeah, Sure, Really Funny

Over the past two weeks, the world has been marking the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Japan and the end of World War II. This weekend, the Facebook page for Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller took the anniversary a step further and posted an image suggesting that the United States should duplicate the end of World War II by nuking the Muslim world:

SidMillerMuslimsPic

(Click on the image to enlarge it.)

The Houston Chronicle reports that the post went up on Commissioner Miller’s Facebook page late Sunday afternoon but was then pulled down around 11:15 a.m. today. It was shared from the Facebook page for The Patriots IV Drip 2.

The post includes a photograph of a mushroom cloud, the hashtags #noislamknowpeace and #COMETAKE, with the following text:

“Japan has been at peace with the U.S. since August 9, 1945. It’s time we made peace with the Muslim world”

A spokesperson for Commissioner Miller’s office says a staffer shared the image on the Facebook page and that it does not reflect Miller’s personal views.

But the Chronicle notes that Commissioner Miller has made anti-Muslim remarks in the past:

At a Texas Public Policy Foundation forum in January, Miller said he was kept up at night over “long-range concerns as I hold those two grandbabies on my lap. I have to wonder, when they have grandbabies to hold in their lap, will we be a socialist country? Will we be a Muslim country? Are we doing enough?”

Cue the “outrage” from the far right about “political correctness” — that’s the frequent defense when a right-wing politician (or staffer) does something dumb (and offensive) like this. In fact, before the post was removed from Miller’s Facebook page, commenters were already making light of it. Again from the Chronicle:

“24 empty missile tubes, a mushroom cloud and now it’s Miller time!” wrote a user named Michael Linder. Betty Miller wrote, “Time to drop another one but make sure that Obama,Clinton and Kerry are present.”

The Houston Chronicle article is here.

Posted in Islam, Sid Miller, TFNEF | 4 Comments

Thanks, Texas SBOE

When we say the State Board of Education has made Texas a laughingstock, we’re not kidding. Sunday’s Doonesbury cartoon strip:

Doonesbury

Posted in civil war, State Board of Education, TFNEF | 9 Comments

Texas GOPer Calls for Driving Gay People Out of Houston, Treating Them Like the Nazis in World War II

The campaign to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) became even more vile Thursday night when one of the anti-HERO campaign leaders insisted that gay and transgender people should be forced to leave Houston and even suggested that they face the same destruction the American military inflicted on Nazi Germany.

Christopher Hooks at the Texas Observer reported from the so-called “Faith Freedom Family Tour” event in a Houston hotel ballroom. When Steven Hotze took the podium, the head of the influential Conservative Republicans of Texas waved around a sword as he launched into a fiery — almost unhinged — attack on the LGBT community. From Hooks’ Observer article:

“Homofascists,” Hotze said, were enabled and appeased by those who treated their behavior as normal or acceptable. The indoctrination started in public schools, by design. “Remember: Homosexuals can’t reproduce. They have to recruit.”

Swift action was needed. “Drive them out of our city. I don’t want them in our city. Send them back to San Francisco.” No half-measures could be contemplated when dealing with the truly wicked. “Has anybody ever heard of the Nazis? Were they wicked? OK. What did we send our boys over to do in World War II? What did our preachers pray that would happen in World War II?”

They weren’t praying that the Germans would straighten up and fly right. “They prayed, ‘give our boys victory in battle,’” Hotze said. “Sometimes you have to do that when people are totally opposed to God like that, and wickedness rises up.”

You can  read the full Texas Observer piece here.

Hotze has been one of the leading opponents of HERO, which the City Council passed in May 2014. HERO bars discrimination in employment, housing and public services based on more than a dozen characteristics, including race, age, sex, military status, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. HERO opponents have succeeded in putting repeal of the ordinance on a November election ballot.

The campaign to support HERO, Houston Unites Against Discrimination, was launched at a press conference on Monday. The Texas Freedom Network is supporting the pro-HERO campaign. Click here to sign the pledge to support HERO and send a clear message to opponents: Discrimination has no place in Houston.

Posted in Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, LGBT issues, Steven Hotze, TFN | 9 Comments

Folding Like a Cheap Suit

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s personal jihad against the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples is falling apart. Faced with a possible contempt charge from an angry federal judge, Paxton this week decided the state must acknowledge the legally married spouses of same-sex couples on both death and birth certificates.

Paxton’s office had advised Texas officials that it was unclear whether the state had to recognize the marriages of same-sex couples conducted before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down bans on such unions in June. That advice came despite an order by U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia that Texas officials may not, in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, impose restrictions on the marriages of those couples.

Based on Paxton’s advice, the Department of State Health Services refused to change a death certificate to reflect that a deceased man was the legally married spouse of his surviving husband. Moreover, state officials were refusing to list the names of both legally married, same-sex parents on the birth certificates of their adopted children.

The failure to comply with Judge Garcia’s order (to essentially obey the U.S. Supreme Court) imposed unnecessary legal problems on the families of legally married same-sex couples. In the death certificate case, for example, the surviving spouse (who himself suffers from terminal cancer) couldn’t obtain title to his late husband’s estate unless the death certificate were revised to acknowledge their marriage.

Judge Garcia last week ordered Paxton and the head of the Department of State Health Services to appear before him and explain why they shouldn’t be held in contempt for failing to comply with his earlier order. Paxton — who already has had to back away from his formal opinion that state officials can refuse, on religious grounds, to license or perform the marriages of same-sex couples — then reversed his advice. Now state officials will acknowledge legally married same-sex spouses on death certificates as well as the birth certificates of their adopted children.

Why did Paxton fold like a cheap suit? Perhaps he figured he has enough legal troubles on his plate without also facing a contempt charge from a federal judge. Earlier this month a grand jury in North Texas  indicted Paxton on unrelated felony charges that could send him to prison for decades.

Keep in mind that Paxton is the state’s leading law enforcement official.

Our friends at Equality Texas have more on this issue here.

Posted in Ken Paxton, LGBT issues, marriage equality | 4 Comments

‘Houston Unites’ Launches Campaign to Support Equal Rights Ordinance

The Texas Freedom Network has joined with a broad coalition of civil liberties organizations, faith leaders and others to defend the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). Religious-right opponents have succeeded in putting repeal of that ordinance on the November ballot. The coalition supporting HERO, Houston Unites Against Discrimination, sent out the following release this morning:

Today, the Houston Unites campaign launched to prevent the repeal of Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) on the November ballot. Houston is the most diverse city in the country, but is also the only city of its size in the country lacking an equal rights ordinance. HERO’s anti-discrimination protections extend to fifteen separate categories — including race, gender, gender identity, veteran status, disability, age and sexual orientation — and would provide Houstonians with a local recourse to discrimination complaints that is timely, effective and affordable.

Members of the Houston Unites coalition voiced their support for the ordinance and urged Houston voters to educate themselves on the protections for all citizens:

Dr. James M. Douglas, President NAACP Houston Branch: “The NAACP has and will always be focused on the elimination of discrimination against all people. As an organization, we have always been and will continue to be inclusive, not exclusive. HERO is not just about black, brown or red. HERO is also not just about male and female. Instead, HERO is about every one of us. Hopefully, we can continue to grow as a city by recognizing that we are all members of the human race and that the only way we can achieve our goal of becoming a great city is by accepting the rights of all of us to equally participate in this society we call Houston, Texas.”

Bobby Singh, Principal, Isani Consultants, L.P.: “If we fail to protect HERO in November, we’re sending a clear message to the rest of the country that we aren’t a business-friendly destination. That depending on who you are, we might not want to do business with you. And that’s wrong. Every person in our city deserves the chance to be successful and to live and work without fear of discrimination.”

Leslie Jackson, Minister at Cathedral of Hope Houston: “I know the stories of those who have faced discrimination because of who they are or whom they love. They are our neighbors, our coworkers, our friends and family members. I believe Jesus calls me and all Christians to treat them with dignity and respect and to oppose, with determination, the discrimination they have faced.”

Ann Elder, mother of a transgender child: “HERO is important to me because it will ensure my son, whom I am so proud of and love dearly, can grow up safe and sound. I know my boy has a bright future and so much to offer. HERO is about ensuring he and all children can reach their full potential.”

Sonia Corrales, Chief Program Officer, Houston Area Women’s Center: “As the Chief Program Officer of the Houston Area Women’s Center, the safety of women and children is my first priority. I’ve worked my entire career to protect women and to support those who have experienced violence. Sexual assault is a terrible crime that affects people in every community. It’s real; it’s scary; and it has absolutely nothing to do with our city’s equal rights ordinance.”

Rabbi Roy A. Walter, Rabbi Emeritus, Congregation Emanu El: “We are all God’s children, regardless of our religious beliefs, our race or ethnicity, our sex or age, our sexual orientation or gender identity. No one has a monopoly on God’s love. And we all have the right to live our lives free from discrimination.”

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Houston Unites is the coalition working to elevate the diversity of voices supporting HERO. The leading coalition partners include: ACLU of Texas, Equality Texas, Freedom For All Americans, Human Rights Campaign, NAACP Houston Branch and Texas Freedom Network.

Posted in Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, TFNEF | Leave a comment

‘Was the Civil War About Slavery?’

Ever since the tragedy in South Carolina on June 17, when a 21-year-old suspect motivated by white supremacist beliefs shot and killed nine African-American worshippers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, there has been a renewed attention on Confederate history and what caused the Civil War. We here at TFN have even received a number of press inquiries for our work in making sure Texas textbooks teach history accurately.

The thing is, there actually is no debating what caused the Civil War. It was slavery and the insistence of the Southern states to keep it.

Here, Colonel Ty Seidule, professor of history at the United States Military Academy at West Point, is out with a video that will make those who like to skew history to fit their agenda — looking at you, far-right members of the Texas State Board of Education — uncomfortable.

Posted in civil war, State Board of Education, TFNEF | 19 Comments

Houston Pastor: Opposing Discrimination Is ‘What Jesus Calls Me to Do’

With the question of repealing the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) headed to a November ballot, pro-discrimination activists on the religious right are portraying the battle as one against the “presence of evil.” Sadly but predictably, those activists seek once again to use faith as a political weapon to divide Houstonians and promote discrimination — particularly against the LGBT community (even though HERO bars discrimination based on many factors, including race, religion and gender as well as sexual orientation and gender identity).

But in a moving opinion column in the Houston Chronicle this past weekend, African-American pastor Rudy Rasmus explains why his Christian faith calls on him to support HERO and oppose discrimination. The column is behind a paywall, but here are a couple of excerpts:

As a Christian, I am taught to love my neighbor as myself. When I search my heart, I believe we are all called to treat others with dignity and respect. Protecting others from discrimination is a way for me to live my faith and lead my congregation to be open and welcoming to all.

I believe that’s what Jesus calls me to do.

He calls me to do it in this wonderfully diverse and open city, with a reputation as a place that treats people with dignity and respect. A repeal of HERO would send a very different message to the people living here and those who might consider moving here or opening a business.

Unfortunately, as the ordinance heads toward the ballot, I anticipate that an argument will develop that pits religion against nondiscrimination. As a pastor and the leader of a faith community, I know how important the freedom of religion and religious expression is. But this is not a battle between gay and transgender people and people of faith, no matter how a few people might portray it.

That’s a false choice and it’s meant to divide us.

Even though we may have different beliefs, I believe we should look for those things that we all share — love of our families, the desire to do good work, wanting to be treated with dignity and respect, and the love that God gives us all as his children.

If the coming ballot fight really does expose a “presence of evil,” such evil doesn’t reside on the side of Pastor Rasmus. He seeks to show how faith can unite communities in support of fairness and equality for all. If HERO opponents are searching for the “presence of evil,” perhaps they should look at their own vile and divisive rhetoric.

Update: The full op-ed is also available here.

Posted in Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, LGBT issues, TFNEF | 4 Comments