The Week in Quotes (June 14 – 20)

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

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Oh Please, Don, Let Us Roll Our Eyes at You Even Harder

On Thursday Donna Bahorich was appointed the new chair of the Texas State Board of Education. In this Houston Chronicle story on Bahorich’s appointment, a former chair, Don McLeroy, left the following comment:

I find it ironic that it its Mr. Ratliff, and the Texas Freedom Network(By the way, thank you for not including them in your story!) are the ones out there making contentious statements; it was always that way. The media has portrayed that it was the religious conservatives that caused ’embarrassing public fights’ when it was actually the other side. Just look again at who is ‘publicly fighting’ in your story.”

No, Dr. McLeroy, TFN and the media did not create the circus at the board. We were all just there with cameras, quoting you — the ringmaster during many of these debates — accurately.

Don McLeroy: “Someone has to stand up to experts!”

Don McLeroy on how women got the right to vote

Don McLeroy explains dinosaurs on the ark

Don McLeroy explains the United Nations

It wasn’t just McLeroy. Here’s fellow board member David Bradley vs. church-state separation

Here’s Bradley (and others) removing civil rights icon Dolores Huerta from history standards

And here’s Jon Stewart taking the SBOE circus to task like no one else can: “What the f*** you talkin’ about, Ken?”

Posted in Don McLeroy, Donna Bahorich, State Board of Education, TFNEF | 4 Comments

Gov. Greg Abbott Appoints SBOE Member Donna Bahorich as New Chair

Gov. Greg Abbott today announced the appointment of Texas State Board of Education member Donna Bahorich, R-Houston, as board chair. Bahorich replaces Barbara Cargill, R-The Woodlands. We just sent out the following press release:

Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller is expressing disappointment in Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision, announced today, to appoint State Board of Education member Donna Bahorich, R-Houston, as board chair:

“If Gov. Abbott wanted to demonstrate that he won’t continue his predecessor’s efforts to politicize and undermine our state’s public schools, this appointment falls far short. The governor has appointed as board chair an ideologue who voted to adopt new textbooks that scholars sharply criticized as distorting American history, who rejected public education for her own family and who supports shifting tax dollars from neighborhood public schools to private and religious schools through vouchers. This appointment almost guarantees that the board will continue to put culture war agendas ahead of educating more than 5 million Texas kids.”

In 2013, her first year on the board, Bahorich voted against a resolution urging the Legislature to reject private school vouchers. Bahorich also homeschooled her three sons and then sent them to private and religious school. The board adopted controversial new social studies textbooks in 2014.

Posted in Barbara Cargill, Donna Bahorich, Greg Abbott, State Board of Education, TFNEF | 8 Comments

Anti-Abortion Extremists Would Rather Women Die Than Go to Planned Parenthood

Listening to right-wing radio often leaves us wondering whether we need to get a rabies vaccine. It’s really that bad. But we monitor those programs so we can shine a light on the frothing, hateful nonsense they promote.

Case in point: today’s “Faith and Freedom” radio program from Liberty Counsel, the Florida-based organization so extreme that the Southern Poverty Law Center lists it as a hate group. Today’s program featured Liberty Counsel’s chairman Mat Staver talking to his colleague Matt Barber about one of their big obsessions: abortion.

Staver and Barber applauded politicians in the Texas Legislature for barring health clinics affiliated with abortion providers from participating in the publicly funded Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening program for low-income and uninsured women. As the Dallas Morning News has reported, only providers in the Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening program can enroll women in the Medicaid program that helps fund cancer treatment. And now Planned Parenthood and other clinics affiliated with abortion providers have been barred from participating in that critical screening program.

This is a continuation of the far right’s war on women’s reproductive health care. Four years ago state lawmakers threw away tens of millions of federal dollars by barring Planned Parenthood from participating in the Texas Women’s Health Program even though those dollars weren’t funding abortions.

Staver crowed today about Texas “defunding” Planned Parenthood:

“They should not be receiving state or federal tax dollars for anything that they do.”

Barber claimed that providing funds for cancer screenings to organizations like Planned Parenthood is essentially the same thing as funding abortion. Except that it’s not. Existing law already bars providers from using tax dollars for abortion care. Eliminating funding for one form of health care — such as cancer screenings or family planning services — doesn’t affect the funding stream for other forms of health care, such as abortion services. What it does is further limit or even eliminate health care options for low-income, uninsured women.

Staver and Barber went on to repeat other falsehoods, including the thoroughly debunked myth that abortion causes breast cancer. But maybe their most despicably cynical claim of all was that Planned Parenthood “is not an organization that has any concern for women at all.”

So say hypocritical extremists who are far more interested in promoting a political agenda than in ensuring women get the health care they need. They would rather women die than go to Planned Parenthood, an organization that saves lives by screening for cancer and providing other important health care services.

Posted in abortion, Liberty Counsel, Mat Staver, Matt Barber, war on women | 1 Comment

Texas GOPers Take Anti-Constitutional Position on Supreme Court and Marriage

Polls show that a growing majority of Americans support the freedom to marry for gay and lesbian couples, but that’s not the case specifically among Republicans. In fact, the Texas Republican Party — largely controlled by the religious right for the past two decades — is particularly hostile to the freedom to marry. And some GOP elected officials have been insisting that Texas should essentially ignore a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that strikes down bans on same-sex marriage.

Here are some Texas Republican leaders who are taking such an anti-constitutional position:

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, speaking in April:

“If the court tries to do this it will be rampant judicial activism. It will be lawlessness, it will be fundamentally illegitimate.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, the state’s chief law enforcement officer, in May refused to say whether he would obey a Supreme Court ruling and even suggested that the Texas Legislature could pass a bill blocking the implementation of such a ruling:

“I think it’s really difficult–first of all, we don’t know that’s gonna happen, second of all, we don’t know exactly how that opinion is going to be written. So, you know, that opinion can be written, you know, numerous ways, hundreds of different ways, so it’s really difficult to speculate about what happens in relation to a particular law. In addition, we don’t know what exactly the legislature is gonna pass. We don’t know if it’s gonna pass, and we don’t know whether there are gonna be amendments or changes to it. So to try to match up two things, one that hasn’t passed, and obviously the Supreme Court hasn’t ruled, it’s difficult to decide any determination about how that’s gonna work together.”

Harris County (Houston) Clerk Stan Stanart suggested that the state attorney general — Paxton — is the decider, regardless of the Supreme Court ruling:

“I’m going to have to follow whatever the state attorney general’s guidance is. They’re destroying an institution, the institution of marriage, but I’ll follow what the current law of the land is.”

State Rep. Cecil Bell, R-Magnolia, argues that the Supreme Court doesn’t have “enforcement authority” and tried (unsuccessfully) to pass a bill essentially saying that Texas would not obey a court ruling for the freedom to marry:

“We will simply say, not in Texas.”

Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay echoed the enforcement argument:

“A ruling by the Supreme Court is nothing but an opinion if the legislative branch and the executive branch do not enforce it. Not only that, if the states would just invoke the 10th Amendment and assert their sovereignty, they can defy a ruling by the Supreme Court. It’s in the Constitution. We can tell the court what cases they can hear

Of course, Texas doesn’t have the constitutional option of defying a Supreme Court ruling, but politicians might take action to slow down implementation of the ruling. Officials tried that when the high court struck down school segregation — slowing down integration in Texas for many years.

(Hat tip: Talking Points Memo)

Posted in LGBT issues, marriage equality, TFNEF | 18 Comments

The Week(s) in Quotes (May 31 – June 13)

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

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Dallas Religious-Right Pastor: American Christians Face Persecution Like the Jews in Nazi Germany

The religious right has invested a lot of energy and resources into trying to convince Americans that Christians are somehow under attack in a country in which the population is overwhelmingly Christian. Latest example: Robert Jeffress, the far-right Dallas pastor who thinks President is paving the way for the Antichrist.

Now Jeffress says Christians in America are facing persecution just like the Jews faced in Nazi Germany. Seriously.

Speaking with Sean Hannity of Fox News on Monday night, Jeffress agreed with Hannity that “Christians are often attacked” for their beliefs:

“I want to remind people that, you know, the Nazis weren’t able to take the Jews to the crematoriums immediately. The German people wouldn’t have allowed for it. Instead, the Nazis had to change public opinion. They marginalized the Jewish people, disparaged them, and make them objects of contempt…. They are being marginalized right now, treated as objects of contempt by the media, and once that happens, then the taking away of further rights will be very easy.”

Such statements aren’t just absurd. They’re also offensive to the memory of the millions of Jews and others who were slaughtered by the Nazis. Jeffress should be ashamed of himself.

Hat tip: Mediaite, which has the video clip.

Posted in Robert Jeffress, TFNEF | 2 Comments

Tom DeLay’s Betrayal of the Constitution and Liberty

Tom DeLay, the disgraced former U.S. congressman from Texas and Republican House Majority Leader, thinks states can defy a possible U.S. Supreme Court ruling striking down bans on same-sex marriage. He tells the right-wing outlet Newsmax that “all hell is going to break loose” if the high court makes such a ruling this month. He goes on:

“A ruling by the Supreme Court is nothing but an opinion if the legislative branch and the executive branch do not enforce it. Not only that, if the states would just invoke the 10th Amendment and assert their sovereignty, they can defy a ruling by the Supreme Court. It’s in the Constitution. We can tell the court what cases they can hear.”

Southern politicians tried this approach after the Supreme Court struck down school segregation as unconstitutional in 1954. It’s also what opponents of interracial marriage called for when the high court struck down state anti-miscegenation laws in 1967.

DeLay also argued that opposing a court ruling striking down bans on same-sex marriage “is about religious liberty more than anything else” — meaning, essentially, the right to refuse to accept or recognize same-sex marriages for religious reasons.

“For all of time, not just Christians and Jews, but all religions have defined marriage as one man and one woman to come together as one and have children and raise those children. You cannot redefine it. It is set in stone. You can call it something else and create civil unions, but you cannot redefine marriage.”

DeLay’s arguments represent an arrogant betrayal of the American constitutional system and a cynical distortion of the principle of religious freedom. If the courts can’t protect the constitutional rights of individuals, then those rights are subject to the whims and biases of whatever political majority rules the day. And that’s especially a danger when demagogues like DeLay use religion as a weapon to discriminate and harm others.

Posted in LGBT issues, marriage equality, TFNEF, Tom DeLay | 7 Comments

Spare Us the Sanctimonious Political Lecture, Rep. Zedler

Zedler Tweet

The Left hates the Duggars because they have standards – even if they fall short – they have standards. The Left will not tolerate that

So, as you can see in his Tweet from Wednesday evening, state Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, thinks “the Left” is unfairly persecuting the Duggars — the religious right’s favorite family, with 19 kids, a TV show and — we now know — an eldest son, Josh, who admitted repeatedly molesting little girls (including some of his sisters) when he was a teenager.

Never mind, apparently, that the Duggars have cynically argued that laws protecting gay and transgender people from discrimination put children at risk of sexual assault.

And that Josh was executive director of the venomously anti-LGBT group Family Research Council Action, whose president, Tony Perkins, argues that gay people are a threat to children.

And that InTouchWeekly reports how Josh confessed his deeds to his father at least three times, that it took 16 months before his parents sought counseling for him, and that the statute of limitations had run out by the time police began an investigation.

And that Rep. Zedler essentially launched his political career more than a decade ago by arguing that a proposed Hooters restaurant in Arlington would attract sexual predators. He’s one of a number of religious-righters in the Texas Legislature who regularly proclaim their devotion to morality and “traditional values.”

Please spare us the sanctimonious political lecture about the Duggars, Rep. Zedler — unless you’re willing to admit that your words about traditional values, protecting children, and “standards” have been little more than empty political rhetoric.

Posted in Bill Zedler, TFNEF | 18 Comments

Thank You, Gov. Pence


Graphic by GLAAD

Defeating nearly two dozen discriminatory anti-LGBT bills during the recently concluded session of the Texas Legislature took a lot of hard work from some great groups working outside the Capitol with activists and people like you who care about these things. And it was also the hard work of LGBT-supportive lawmakers working — some loudly, others quietly — to kill these bills.

But credit where credit is due: a shout-out is owed to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence. Without you and your actions, which sadly inflicted an undeserved black eye on the good people of the Hoosier state, defeating the bills in Austin would have been a little bit harder.

It was your signature, Gov. Pence, on a religious-right supported bill designed to discriminate against LGBT people that ignited a nationwide firestorm and gave lawmakers in Texas and all over the rest of the country clear evidence that America is losing its appetite for anti-LGBT laws.

Pence’s timing, for Texas purposes, was impeccable. He signed the bill on March 26, just as the Texas legislative session was gaining steam. Seeing the fallout, the Texas business community became further galvanized against the discriminatory proposals. The bills were stopped way before they could get anywhere near Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. Heck, they didn’t even get a vote in either the Senate or the House. And here we are today, with 20+ dead anti-LGBT bills.

Thanks for the assist, Gov. Pence. We could have done it without you, but it’s Texas and we need all the help we can get. Please accept this humble award from all of us Texans who believe in LGBT equality.

Posted in 2015 Texas Legislature, LGBT issues, TFN | 1 Comment