Reports: Thuggish Dan Patrick Supporters Confront Texas Reporters

So are we now seeing the new face of Texas following the right-wing sweep on election day last Tuesday?

According to various media outlets, a television reporter says he was assaulted as he tried to cover the election night victory party for state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, last Tuesday. Patrick’s right-wing supporters were celebrating an election that will make Patrick — who even the Dallas Morning News has characterized as “potentially explosive,” “reckless” and “untrustworthy” — the Lone Star State’s next lieutenant governor.

As Talking Points Memo reports, a Patrick supporter apparently was upset that the reporter was on the air while someone prayed from the stage:

Foti Kallergis, a reporter from television station KTRK, and his colleague, Deborah Wrigley, were covering the election results when somebody apparently confronted them for going on air during the prayer.

In video posted on Monday by Mediaite Kallergis could be seen on camera just before the altercation took place, but the broadcast cut away from the live shot to other footage before the commotion began. In the video, Kallergis could be heard trying to continue to read his report while a man’s voice began to speak over him. Kallergis eventually went silent.

The reporter later tweeted that he had been “assaulted.”

Later on, apparently, another Patrick supporter confronted one of Kallergis’s colleagues:

In addition, Isiah Carey, a reporter from television station KRIV, posted a photo to Instagram, alongside a description of the incident. Carey described it as “a physical assault.”

“Deborah Wrigley from channel 13 had to step in and stop the Republican supporter (tan jacket) from attacking her fellow reporter (black suit) on the air,” Carey said. “Wrigley says then another woman from the event approached her and called her a fucking bitch.”

Appalling and more than a little chilling.

Posted in 2014 Elections, Dan Patrick, TFNEF | 6 Comments

Religious Child Maltreatment — One of the Many Ills of Authoritarian Faith

This guest post by Janet Heimlich, founder of the Child-Friendly Faith Project (CFFP), explores the tragic connection that sometimes exists between religion and child maltreatment. Sadly, Texas is no stranger to this problem. The cautionary tale of fundamentalist preacher Lester Roloff and his homes for troubled teens is a case in point. TFN lobbied for years for the Texas Legislature to suspend the alternative (and lenient) licensing program the state maintained for faith-based child care providers like Roloff. That program was finally allowed to expire in 2001, and the Roloff Homes moved out of the state. Janet’s CFFP will host a conference on religious and cultural maltreatment on Dec. 4-5 in Austin. Click here for more information on the conference.


I’ve been researching and writing about religious child maltreatment (RCM) since 2008. RCM is child abuse and neglect that is enabled by religious belief, usually the fear-based kind. Soon after my book Breaking Their Will came out in June of 2011, TFN was kind enough to publish a blog post I wrote on the issue of RCM and religious authoritarian cultures, the communities in which children are at the highest risk for RCM.

It was a good feeling to be able to expose these problems. And so, mentally wiping my hands, I thought, “Glad that’s out. Now, on to other things.” But that’s not at all what has happened.

You see, it’s one thing to make others aware that children are being abused and neglected in the name of faith. It’s another to actually do something about it. And it didn’t take long before I realized that, yes, I needed to do more—I had to come up with a plan to stop RCM in this country.

The need for such a plan became apparent when I began to understand, in an all too real way, that victims were still suffering. I received emails from survivors who said they appreciated my book, but they also knew many children who were still stuck inside the same faith communities that had turned their own childhoods into a living hell.

I remember giving a talk and when I asked for questions, an elderly woman raised her hand and tearfully asked me what she should do about her daughter. The woman said her daughter was raising her toddler in such a controlled and indoctrinated way, the child had to thank Jesus every time he asked for a grape. Last month, I gave a talk to ex-Mormons in Salt Lake City, Utah, and met a 21-year-old man who was rejected by his parents because he stopped believing the teachings of the LDS church.

In addition, it’s clear that politicians and the general public often are willing to sacrifice the health, safety, and lives of young people if religious rights are at stake. For example, here in Texas, after CPS was heavily criticized for removing hundreds of children from a polygamous, fundamentalist Mormon sect—even though 11 men went to prison for sexually abusing underage girls through “spiritual” marriages—the agency failed to take away any parent’s custodial rights. To this day, even the sect’s leader, Warren Jeffs, can continue to make decisions for his hundreds of children while serving a life sentence for raping two girls.

Since 2000, according to the New York City health department, more than one baby a year has contracted herpes after undergoing a Jewish circumcision ritual that involves a rabbi sucking the infant’s penis. At least two babies have died and two have suffered brain damage. While the city now requires that rabbis inform parents of the risks, the city is not enforcing the regulation, and the dangerous ritual is still legal in New York and everywhere else in the US.

Children are still beaten by self-proclaimed Christians who insist that the book of Proverbs requires that they use “the rod” to make their boys and girls heaven-worthy. Children still die from medical neglect based on extremist beliefs about the power of “faith healing.” And members of religious organizations still fail to report sexual abuse to protect the reputation of their religion and the clergy who perpetrate those crimes.

What’s really the message here? It’s not that religion is bad and should be labeled akin to poisons under the kitchen sink— “Keep away from children.” Instead, as I wrote in that original TFN blog post, we have to speak out against authoritarian religion. Why? Because religious authoritarian leaders do things they have no business doing, such as telling parents how to raise their kids when those leaders have had next to no training in child development.

Now, it’s not a comfortable place for many people of faith to go. Many don’t like criticizing other believers—at least publicly. But this differentiation between how ultra-conservative people of faith raise their kids compared to more progressive believers has to be recognized.

So, just how do we combat faith communities that pose a threat to young people? Continue to support TFN, whose efforts help weaken the influence of authoritarian religion.

And you can do something else—attend a great conference on religious and cultural maltreatment. (Those who register and type in the code “tfn” get a discount on the registration fee.) It’s being hosted by a nonprofit organization I started in 2012, the Child-Friendly Faith Project. We educate the public about these issues. And we do something else that’s unique—we partner with, and promote, the “good guy” faith communities that attend our trainings on RCM and commit to adopting healthy childrearing practices.

The CFFP has been my answer to ending religious child maltreatment. The idea is to help grow child-friendly faith communities and let ultra-conservative, authoritarian communities that abuse and neglect children wither on the vine.

Janet Heimlich is the founder of the Child-Friendly Faith Project and the author of Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment. She can be reached at

Posted in Religious violence, TFNEF | 2 Comments

The Week in Quotes (Nov. 2 – 8)

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

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Posted in The Week in Quotes | 1 Comment

Ninety-Year-Old Glenn Beck Declares Death of Religious Freedom

On a related note, I have volunteered to have a makeup artist make me look one month older so I can speak to you from this December and warn you that Glenn Beck’s year-end show was ridiculous.

From Right Wing Watch:

On his radio broadcast today, Glenn Beck mentioned that he is bringing in a Hollywood makeup artist tomorrow to make him up to look like a ninety-year-old man so that he can film a segment for his upcoming end-of-the-year special in which he recounts, in the year 2054, how 2014 was the year that religious freedom was lost forever.

Posted in Glenn Beck, religious right, TFNEF | 1 Comment

Anti-Gay Pastor: Starbucks Flavors Its Coffee with ‘Semen from Sodomites’

Sometimes we all need a reminder that the nuttiest anti-gay fanatics in America aren’t all from Texas and the rest of the South. The video clip above features New York City pastor James David Manning insisting that Starbucks has a special ingredient in its coffee: semen from gay men. Manning apparently read a satirical news report and ran with it. From the video clip:

“Starbucks is a place where these types frequent and a lot of body fluids are exchanged there.

The thing that I was not aware of is that … what Starbucks was doing, is they were taking specimens of male semen, and they were putting it in the blends of their lattes.

It’s the absolute truth. They’re using male semen, and putting it into the blends of coffees that they sell.

My suspicion is that they’re getting their semen from sodomites. Semen flavors up the coffee, and makes you thinks you’re having a good time.”

(H/T Pink News)

Posted in LGBT issues, TFNEF | 8 Comments

Houston Rally: Religious-Righters Claim America Is on Nazi Path to Christian Persecution

The religious right’s fear-mongering about threats to religious freedom in America has really jumped the shark. The above clip is from the religious right’s I Stand Sunday event this past weekend in Houston. Right-wing groups sponsored the event, which was streamed to participating churches around the country.

Speaker after speaker railed against abortion, marriage equality for same-sex couples, and laws that bar discrimination against LGBT people. But the common theme was the supposed persecution of people of faith — particularly Christians — in America. The video above includes a clip from a religious-right documentary called One Generation Away, which argues that Christians in America face the kind of persecution that occurred in Nazi Germany. Speaking in the documentary, author Eric Metaxas makes that explicit:

“The parallel today is simply that you have a government, a state, which is getting larger and larger and getting more and more powerful, and it’s beginning to push against the church. There’s a window of opportunity where we can fight. If we don’t wake up and fight before then, we won’t be able to fight. That’s just what happened in Germany, and that’s the urgency we have in America now. And people think that’s incendiary or I’m being hyperbolic. I’m sorry. I wish, I wish, I wish I were. I’m not.”

But it is incendiary and he is being hyperbolic. Shamefully so. To compare America to Nazi Germany is beyond repugnant. It doesn’t just cheapen the real and horrible persecution — including torture and murder — suffered by the Nazis’ victims. It also recklessly seeks to sow irrational fear and paranoia among people of faith in America as a means to promote a divisive and discriminatory political agenda.

Sunday’s Houston event isn’t the only example of this fear-mongering. Last week, for example, former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pennsylvania, who sought the Republican nomination for president in 2012,  also warned that Christians in America may soon face the same kind of persecution that the church faced in Nazi Germany. Santorum argued that the threat to religious freedom comes from government wanting “to tell you how to live your life. You either conform to what the government says you have to believe in, or you’re going to lose certain privileges.” He cited abortion and same-sex marriage as examples.

If anyone wants government to tell people how to live their lives, it’s extremists like Santorum and speakers at Sunday’s Houston event. Santorum, after all, thinks government should have the power to forbid individuals from obtaining and using birth control. He and other religious-righters insist that government interfere in the deeply personal decisions women make about whether and when to have children, whether by limiting (or barring completely) their access to abortion care or even to birth control. They demand that government outlaw any legal recognition for same-sex couples. They opposed the repeal of laws that actually criminalize the intimate relationships of those couples — laws that could send the individuals in those relationships to jail.

They also seek the right to discriminate not just against LGBT people in the public square. (Check out the t-shirt worn by attendees at the Sunday event in Houston: “We reserve the right to refuse service to homosexuals.”) As one Houston minister was forced to admit last spring, they also think they should have the right to discriminate against anyone — even Jews — who somehow offend their religious beliefs.

The Texas Freedom Network stands with the many clergy and other people of faith across the state who reject the notion that barring discrimination amounts to persecution. We stand with people of faith who believe women should have the right to decide for themselves whether and when to have children. We stand with LGBT families who seek equality and the right to live their lives with dignity and in peace. And we stand with all of those who truly support religious freedom — but not with those who use religion as a political weapon to divide Americans.

Posted in religious right, TFNEF | 7 Comments

Report: Texas Textbook Coverage of Mexican-American History Appears Improved, But Some Concerns Remain

MAS_imageWhen Texas last adopted social studies textbooks in 2002, the new texts — particularly for the Grade 7 Texas History course — came under heavy fire from critics concerned over what they saw as poor coverage of the history and experiences of Mexican Americans. So when publishers submitted their proposed new textbooks this past spring, we wanted to know how their products covered Mexican-American history in the Lone Star State.

The answer: coverage is considerably better than it was 12 years ago, but some concerns remain.

The Texas Freedom Network Education Fund asked Dr. Jose Maria Herrera, a historian at the University of Texas at El Paso, to review textbooks for the Grade 7 Texas History. Textbooks from major publishers Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill and Pearson Education are the only ones currently under consideration by the State Board of Education. Herrera summarized his findings in reports to each of the three publishers today:

“I evaluated the sections of your product that are pertinent to my field of expertise – 19th century American history and U.S./Mexican relations during the early National period (i.e. topics 3-4 and parts of 5). I also reviewed the sections related to Mexican-American history during the 20th century. … Overall, I found coverage of these areas in your product to be outstanding in some respects, but there are some very important details that caused concern on my part.”

You can read Herrera’s letters to the publishers and summaries of his findings here:

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | McGraw-Hill | Pearson Education.

Dr. Herrera submitted his reviews to each publisher, as well as to the State Board of Education, earlier today.

Because the purpose of the review was to identify ways publishers can improve their textbooks before final adoption by the State Board of Education later this month, Herrera’s reports mostly highlight concerns over factual errors, areas of weak coverage and examples of bias. He makes clear, however, that each of the textbooks has laudable strengths in addition to the concerns he notes.

The TFN Education Fund has already released reports from other scholars who reviewed other textbooks up for adoption this year. Click here to read those reviews.

Posted in social studies adoption (2014), TFNEF | Leave a comment

The Week in Quotes (Oct. 26 – Nov. 1)

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

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Bloody Street Battles in Laredo? More Fear-Mongering from Texas Eagle Forum

Cathie Adams, president of the Texas chapter of Phyllis Schlafly’s far-right group Eagle Forum, is one of the biggest promoters of hysteria and fear-mongering in the Lone Star State. That’s especially true when the former Texas Republican Party chairwoman talks about immigration.

Writing in Texas Eagle Forum’s October online newsletter, Adams says she traveled to the Texas-Mexico border recently to look at the problem of undocumented immigration firsthand. Her “report” includes this sensational item:

“In Laredo, we saw drug cartel watchdogs brazenly standing on street corners without any fear from the severely understaffed Sheriff’s department. We were told about a recent gun fight between Mexican drug gangs on the streets of Laredo. Big SUVs lined up on opposite sides of a line with gunmen’s arms and weapons hanging out the windows. There were so many killed in the gunfight that authorities brought in a flatbed truck to collect the dead bodies. Laredo authorities then warned citizens to avoid the city for three days, although the newspaper only reported a gang confrontation in which a couple people were wounded. Why the misinformation? So that tourists wouldn’t be afraid to visit the wild, wild west Texas-Mexico border city of Laredo!”

We wonder how such a bloody, massive gun battle between Mexican drug gangs in the streets of an American city somehow escaped the attention of the news media, and especially the right-wing media. Seems to us Fox News would have had a legion of reporters and talk show host detailing the collapse of civilization on the American side of the border.

In response to a request for information from the Texas Freedom Network, a Webb County spokesperson said he had heard of no such event occurring in Laredo, the county seat. But Adams apparently thinks there is some sort of coverup.

Of course, we wouldn’t be surprised to read about such a gun battle occurring across the border in Nuevo Laredo. Mexico’s drug wars in recent years have been vicious and bloody. But Adams wants folks to believe that those wars have caused streets on this side of the border to overflow with blood. (Perhaps Adams will now try to suggest that she really was talking about Nuevo Laredo. But the context makes it clear that she meant the Texas city of Laredo.)

Border warfare is a common theme on the far right days. Consider the efforts to portray border cities like El Paso as major crime hotspots because of the battles between drug gangs in Juarez just across the border. But statistics show that for years now El Paso has had the lowest crime rate among American cities with a population of more than 500,000. Right-wingers have also tried to demonize refugee children as disease-carrying gangbangers who are a threat to Texas public school kids.

Adams is especially reckless. Two years ago, for example, she wrote that “25 Americans or legal residents die each day at the hands of illegal aliens.” But according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, that stat was actually a made-up number from a six-year-old Internet essay by U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa. King is one of the most extreme anti-immigrant voices in America today.

To be clear, undocumented immigration is a real problem. That’s true despite large increases in spending and staffing for border control, especially over the past decade. But the misleading or downright fictional stories promoted by extremists like Adams do nothing to help solve the problem. Those stories are meant just to frighten people.

Posted in Cathie Adams, immigration, Texas Eagle Forum, TFNEF | 4 Comments

Texas Republican: End Legal Immigration or We’ll Never Elect a Conservative President Again

A local Texas Republican Party official is arguing that the nation must close its borders to all immigration, legal or otherwise, if the GOP ever wants to elect another American president.

“With every passing year it’s getting harder and harder to elect a Republican president, and frankly, if things don’t change, in a few years it will be next to impossible,” writes Peter Morrison, treasurer of the Hardin Country Republican Party in Southeast Texas, in one of his periodic e-newsletters today. “That’s because immigrants, far from being natural conservatives, prefer the Democrats by about a two to one margin, and every year they and their descendants make up a bigger part of the voting population.”

You might recall that Morrison and other right-wingers worked (unsuccessfully) to oust Republican Joe Straus of San Antonio as Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives following the 2010 elections. They thought Straus wasn’t conservative enough, and Morrison also pointed out that Straus’ opponents in the contest for Speaker were Christians. Straus is Jewish.

Morrison has in the past portrayed white Christians as victims of an increasingly diverse American electorate. He blames minorities and “maggots” for President Obama’s re-election, and he worries about maintaining the “traditional American demographic status quo.” So it’s not surprising to see him argue in his email today that bringing “legal immigration to a virtual halt” is necessary “so that our grandchildren won’t grow up in an alien and hostile culture.”

Of course, Morrison doesn’t think immigration has always been bad. It’s just that today, you see, we’re getting the wrong kind of immigrants:

“Until 1965, immigration was largely restricted to people from Europe, where the vast majority of Americans had their roots.  The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 changed all that. Now, 90% of immigrants are non-European, and they’re coming here at the rate of about a million a year.  They’ve been doing so for decades, and that is the main reason why it has become nearly impossible to elect a Republican president.”

But why can’t Republicans attract the support of these new, non-European immigrants? Welfare, apparently:

“When asked if they prefer a bigger government providing more services, or a smaller one providing fewer, 55% of Asians and 75% of Hispanics said they prefer a bigger government.  Most immigrants are poor, and many receive government handouts for many years after moving here.”

Morrison worries that “the greatest country in the history of the world has become a dumping ground for the offspring of the poor of Central and South America.” So European immigrants weren’t poor?

But there’s another reason to stop immigration, he writes (emphasis added):

“Making things even worse, many immigrants despise us and our children, even as millions of them flock here.  To them, we’re a bunch of racists who deserve nothing but their contempt.  They also have no attachment to our history and roots, and many of them couldn’t care less about the Constitution. … Making matters even worse is that every single non-European immigrant is entitled to affirmative action and other racial preferences the moment they get off the plane.  Not only will conservatives be outnumbered politically in the not too distant future, our children are going to grow up surrounded by people who have more rights than they do, and who despise everything they represent.”

Wait. Immigrants think people like Morrison are racists? That’s outrageous! What in the world would give them that idea?

Posted in immigration, Peter Morrison, TFNEF | 4 Comments