David Barton: Gay Folks and Abortion Rights Supporters Can’t Be Christians

David Barton doesn’t pretend to be just a historian. He also appears to see himself as qualified to judge who is a real Christian and who isn’t. See here, for example. Our friends at Right Wing Watch heard him do it again Wednesday on his WallBuilders Live! radio program.

Lamenting the fact that polls show many young Christians don’t think homosexuality and abortion are sins and that some have had abortions or are LGBT themselves, Barton insisted that they — those young folks — can’t really be Christians:

“Whoa. There is nothing in the Bible — nothing — that aligns with this. How can you be a Christian and a follower of Jesus Christ when you don’t follow his teachings on these things?”

Here’s a fuller audio clip provided by Right Wing Watch:

Thus saith Lord David.

Posted in abortion, David Barton, LGBT issues, TFNEF | 7 Comments

You’re Living in the Past, Man

We need to take a moment to unpack one of the religious right’s favorite talking points about marriage equality, or, more specifically, the same-sex marriage ban currently in the Texas Constitution that has been challenged in federal court.

The ban was approved by voters in 2005, which was — if our math is correct — one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight — nine! That’s almost 10! The ban was approved by voters almost an entire 10 years ago.

A lot can and has happened in nine years.

Since 2005 we’ve lived through two presidential elections, three Winter Olympics and two Summer Olympics, one great recession and, more relevant to this blog post, a big change in attitudes toward the LGBT community and about equality. A majority of Americans now favors same sex-marriage. And in this state, a plurality of Texans now feel the same way, and the percentage is rising.

But over at the far-right group Texas Values, which opposes equality for the LGBT community, it’s as if 2005 was just yesterday. Look at this screen capture taken from the group’s website.

You’ll notice Texas Values uses the present tense. You can often find the group’s president peddling the same stat.

And it’s true, when Texans went to the polls in 2005, the same-sex marriage ban received 76 percent of the vote. But to claim that 76 percent of Texans supported the marriage ban either back then or continue to do so today is, at best, disingenuous.

Here is what Texas Observer reporter Forrest Wilder pointed out earlier today via his Twitter account.

If the same vote were held today, would the ban still pass? Maybe, maybe not. One thing we would be willing to put money on is that if it did pass, it wouldn’t receive anywhere near the 76 percent of the vote it did in 2005.

The point is, we’re not infallible. All of us make mistakes. A growing number of Texans are recognizing that the ban might have been a mistake. What might have seemed like a good idea a long time ago, might not be such a hot idea now. What was popular nine years ago, could seem a little embarrassing now.

For instance, in October 2005, just a month before the ban passed, the No. 1 album in America was by … Nickelback. We all make mistakes.

Posted in LGBT issues, Texas Values, TFNEF | 3 Comments

Steve Toth: Too Extreme Even for Texas Republicans?

Maybe sometimes a far-right politician can be too extreme even for Texas Republicans.

On Tuesday state Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands, lost big in the Republican runoff race for a Texas Senate seat north of Houston. State Rep. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, won in a landslide, getting about 67 percent of the vote to Toth’s 33 percent to earn the GOP nomination for the District 4 Senate seat.

Both candidates promoted their tea party bona fides during the campaign. But Toth’s record is, frankly, downright nutty. Last year, for example, Toth was a leading legislative critic of CSCOPE, the curriculum management tool created through a collaboration of state Education Service Centers. The vast majority — nearly 900 — of Texas school districts have used CSCOPE. But tea partyers and other far-right activists manufactured a witch hunt that succeeded in gutting the program. They complained that the program’s lessons were anti-American and anti-Christian and promoted Marxism and Islam. Toth bought into that nonsense and became a major backer of the witch hunt, although a State Board of Education-sponsored review later found that the politically charged claims were bogus.

Toth also tells a ridiculous story to promote his opposition to sex education that includes information about birth control. During the 2013 legislative session, Toth said his wife knew two unmarried teens who got so “hot and bothered” at a Planned Parenthood sex education class, which included information on contraception, that the guy couldn’t get a condom on before he impregnated his girlfriend in the car later. Earlier in the legislative session, one of Toth’s legislative staffers lectured a minister about morality when that minister went to Toth’s office to express her concerns about legislative budget cuts that had gutted the Texas Women’s Health Program two years earlier. Tens of thousands of low-income women lost access to family planning services because of those cuts. But Toth’s staffer worried that those services just promote sinful behavior.

Toth probably thought positions like those would win him votes in his state Senate race. Maybe they did get him some votes. But most Republican voters on Tuesday apparently weren’t buying what he was selling.

Posted in birth control, CSCOPE, sex education, Steve Toth, TFNEF | 6 Comments

Ten Outrageous Changes Publishers Agreed to Make to Texas Social Studies Textbooks in 2002

The State Board of Education is set this year to adopt new social studies textbooks for Texas public schools. So we went back to our files to see what happened during the last social studies textbook adoption in the Lone Star State more than a decade ago.

During public hearings and in written comments submitted in 2002, right-wing activists and state board members raised numerous political objections to content in history, geography, government and economics textbooks publishers had submitted to the board for approval. The pressure they put on publishers to bow to political demands and alter their textbooks succeeded in a number of areas. Following are ten of the worst changes publishers agreed to make:

  1. Publishers of world geography textbooks agreed to revise references to the formation of fossil fuels, glaciers and landscape features occurring “millions of years ago” to read instead “in the distant past” and “over time.” The revised passages then would not conflict with the beliefs of creationists that Earth is less than 10,000 years old.
  2. A publisher agreed to remove links to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website after a critic complained that a textbook passage on the environment contained “too much trash” and “promotes activism and sends students to EPA websites.”
  3. A publisher agreed to change “many scientists” to “some scientists” in a discussion of scientists who accept the overwhelming evidence about the greenhouse effect and climate change.
  4. A publisher agreed to delete a sentence reading “Acid rain that is produced in the United States and carried north by wind is a major environmental problem for Canada.” A critic had objected to the negative impact of acid rain being discussed as a fact and to the implication that America was responsible.
  5. Publishers altered common descriptions of the Constitution as a “living document” (in some cases deleting the term) because right-wing critics claimed that the term was hostile to a strict interpretation of the Constitution.
  6. A publisher agreed to delete “In the United States, everyone has a right to free public education” from a textbook after a critic argued that the sentence suggested education is an entitlement.
  7. A publisher agreed to delete a Critical Thinking question asking students whether they think civil rights activists were justified in breaking the law in their struggle for equality. In fact, many civil rights activists, such as Martin Luther King Jr., engaged in civil disobedience and were arrested for violating laws regarding segregation and public protests. But a critic argued that the question encouraged students to break the law.
  8. A publisher agreed to delete a sentence reading “Christians would later accept slavery in other contexts.” This came after a critic argued that textbook discussions of slavery in the United States were too negative and anti-Christian.
  9. After a critic called the sentence “more propaganda” for Islam, a publisher agreed to delete a sentence that read: ““[M]any other teachings in the Quran, such as the importance of honesty, honor, giving to others and having love and respect for their families, govern their daily lives.”
  10. A publisher altered a passage that discussed how Osama bin Laden’s instructions to kill Americans were not supported by the Quran, which tells soldiers to treat civilians with kindness and justice. A critic insisted that the passage was an example of textbooks “going to great length to put a positive light on Muslim teachings.” The publisher changed the passage so that it said simply that not all Muslims agreed with bin Laden’s beliefs.

Those social studies textbooks will have been in Texas public schools for 12 years before those adopted by the State Board of Education this year  get to classrooms in the fall of 2015.

Posted in social studies adoption (2014), State Board of Education, TFNEF | 9 Comments

Houston Will *Not* Certify HERO Repeal Signatures

TFN President Kathy Miller just sent out the following message regarding today’s announcement on the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO).

Moments ago the Houston city secretary announced that opponents of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) did not gather enough valid signatures to overturn the ordinance. Despite repeated boasts by leaders of the religious right (and an army of paid organizers), opponents of equality were only able to submit just over 15,000 valid signatures, leaving them more than a thousand short of the required minimum.

So what happens now?

Mayor Annise Parker has announced that implementation of the ordinance will be delayed, pending an anticipated legal challenge by opponents of the ordinance. So this is far from over.

But one thing that hasn’t changed: Houston is a city that doesn’t discriminate.

And whatever happens, the Texas Freedom Network will continue to stand with those who support equality and defend against any attempts to overturn the basic, common-sense protections HERO provides to all who live and work in Houston.

Posted in civil and equal rights, Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, LGBT issues, TFNEF | 1 Comment

The Week in Quotes (July 27 – Aug. 2)

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

continue reading »

Posted in The Week in Quotes | Leave a comment

Texas Rising Activist Profiles: Caitlin Rodriguez

Last month we reintroduced you to Texas Rising, a TFN project that seeks to uplift the voices of the rising electorate, 18-29 year olds, across the state. This weekend more than 40 of those young people, all TFN student chapter members from all parts of the state, were in Austin for intensive training sessions we’re calling the Texas Rising Summer Institute.

We’d like to introduce you to some of these amazing young people, starting with Caitlin Rodriguez in a Q&A conducted by another Texas Rising student, James Carneiro.

Where do you go to school? What’s your graduation year and major?
I’m a journalism major and a sociology minor at Texas State University and plan to graduate in spring 2016.

Where did you grow up? What was your childhood like?
I grew up in El Paso. I had a really enjoyable childhood with my parents and my younger brother. My parents were and still are very supportive of anything I want to pursue, whether it be acting (I did a lot of theater until the end of high school) or writing or anything else creative. My parents pushed me pretty hard academically, but only because they knew what I was capable of and it really has benefited me as I venture into adulthood (ah, scary!). I had a really normal childhood filled with friends and family and good things. I was all around pretty happy.

What issues are you passionate about?
I’m really passionate about women’s issues and LGBTQ issues. At least it started out that way. As I learn how all of these issues are really so intertwined I definitely think the breadth of what I’m passionate about is widening. I care about issues involving people of color, especially regarding immigration, because growing up practically on the U.S.-Mexico border I saw exactly who those laws were affecting. I’ve recently become interested in worker’s rights as well, involving issues like minimum wage and health care coverage. To sum it up, I’m really just passionate about people and working so that no one is faced with any kind of suffering because of who they are, where they were born, where they work, etc.

When did you start advocating for progressive issues?
I first started actively engaging in these issues when I entered college, but it was a slow process. I’ve spent these first two years of university really just trying to learn as much as I can about this range of different issues. As I enter my third year, it’s the first time that I’m really starting to take action, aside from educating myself. I’ve taken a student journalism position at URGE (formally known as Choice USA) and I’ve taken a leadership position as media manager in Texas State’s TFN student chapter.

What brought you to TFN and why do you stay?
For a year or so I’ve been a member of my campus’s feminist organization, Feminists United. At the end of this spring semester, we were informed that Texas State would be building its own TFN chapter headed by one of Feminists United’s members, Holly Doyle. She was looking for people to stand behind her in getting the organization off the ground, so I signed on to be her media manager. I thought it would be a position that fit given that I’m a journalism major and I have a background in mass/social media. It would be a new opportunity for me to not only strengthen my media skills, but also give me a chance to work on something directly related to the progressive issues that I care about and that affect Texans.

What do you want to do when you graduate?
That’s a hard question for me because I can’t give you the most concrete answer. I know I want to stay with journalism because writing is something I feel most comfortable and passionate doing. I think language is a platform that allows us to exchange ideas and remain informed and listen to people who live lives different than our own. I want to do something that incorporates my passion for both people and writing. When I have been asked this question, I used to say I would want to give a voice to the voiceless, but recently I read a quote by Arundhati Roy who won the Sydney Peace Prize in 2004. In her speech, she said, “There’s really no such thing as the voiceless. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.” Now that I think about it, I completely agree with her. Everyone has a voice, but it’s the society and media climate we live in that decides which voices are most important. I feel like it’s those people who are deliberately silenced who are the most important. I want to be the outlet through which they can be heard.

Anything else we should know?
I feel like this is a question they ask at the end of a dating profile where the appropriate response is: “I’m really open, ask me just about anything and I’ll answer.” But it’s true, I am pretty open. I guess you should know that, as well as that I’m really excited to start this new work with TFN because I think it’s an organization that Texas State students really need and can benefit greatly from.

Posted in Texas Rising, TFNEF | 1 Comment

Greg Abbott’s Pitiful Defense of Inequality

Opponents of marriage equality keep trotting out the same tired arguments in an attempt to justify legalized discrimination against LGBT families. In state after state, federal courts keep knocking those arguments down. But Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott makes essentially the same already-rejected arguments anyway in a new court brief defending the Texas ban on same-sex marriage.

From the Texas Tribune:

The brief was filed with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where the state is appealing a state district court judge’s February ruling that the ban is unconstitutional. …

Abbott’s office contends that a same-sex marriage ban meets the Equal Protection Clause’s prescription that laws “be rationally related to a legitimate state interest.” The state argues that promoting opposite-sex marriage encourages the birth of children “in the context of stable, lasting relationships” in a way that same-sex marriage could not.

More fundamentally, the brief says, the courts should not overrule Texas voters’ decision in 2005 to define marriage in the state constitution as “solely the union of one man and one woman.”

Regardless of the court’s legal authority to strike down same-sex marriage bans, the attorney general argues, democracy would be better served by allowing voters to decide.

The brief also argues that the state doesn’t need to prove that same-sex marriage is detrimental to the state interests, but simply that opposite-sex marriage is more beneficial. The state says a ban on same-sex marriage does not contradict the U.S. Constitution, U.S. Supreme Court rulings or the country’s history and traditions.

This passage in Abbott’s court brief stuck out for us:

The State’s recognition and encouragement of opposite-sex marriages increases the likelihood that naturally procreative couples will produce children, and that they will do so in the context of stable, lasting relationships. By encouraging the formation of opposite-sex marriages, the State seeks not only to encourage procreation but also to minimize the societal costs that can result from procreation outside of stable, lasting marriages. Because same-sex relationships do not naturally produce children, recognizing same-sex marriage does not further these goals to the same extent that recognizing opposite-sex marriage does. That is enough to supply a rational basis for Texas’s marriage laws.

Nonsense.

First, there is evidence that opposite-sex marriages are not necessarily more “stable” and “lasting” than same-sex unions. Consider this British study from 2012, for example:

The most recent evidence from the UK Office of National Statistics finds that homosexual couples that joined in 2005 were significantly less likely to have filed for dissolution four years later than heterosexual couples were to have filed for divorce: 2.5% compared to 5.5%.

A 2011 study from the Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles reported similar findings. The point here isn’t that a same-sex marriage would necessarily be more stable than an opposite-sex marriage either. Who could really know either way? But our state’s chief law enforcement officer simply presents as fact something he can’t prove and for which there is contrary evidence.

And what does Abbott mean by “naturally produce children”? Some children are conceived through artificial insemination or surrogacy, for example. Is that “natural” if it happens within the context of an opposite-sex marriage but not a same-sex union? Moreover, many couples — opposite- and same-sex — adopt children because they are not able to conceive “naturally” (however Abbott chooses to define the term). After all, one or both partners in an opposite-sex marriage can be infertile or otherwise unable to conceive. And many opposite-sex couples simply choose not to have children. But the state doesn’t bar them from getting married.

A federal court, ruling in Kitchen v. Herbert in December 2013, made similar points in striking down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage. That court also noted that procreation isn’t always the purpose of getting married anyway, whether for same- or opposite-sex couples:

The court does not find the State’s argument compelling because, however persuasive the ability to procreate might be in the context of a particular religious perspective, it is not a defining characteristic of conjugal relationships from a legal and constitutional point of view. The State’s position demeans the dignity not just of same-sex couples, but of the many opposite-sex couples who are unable to reproduce or who choose not to have children. Under the State’s reasoning, a post-menopausal woman or infertile man does not have a fundamental right to marry because she or he does not have the capacity to procreate. This proposition is irreconcilable with the right to liberty that the Constitution guarantees to all citizens.

Finally, let’s consider for a moment Abbott’s argument that the decision about whether the state recognizes same-sex marriages should be left to the voters of Texas. We wonder: what fundamental rights enjoyed by himself would Abbott be willing to put to a vote by the general public?

Posted in Greg Abbott, LGBT issues, marriage, marriage equality, TFNEF | 2 Comments

Very Petty, Attorney General Abbott

The First Amendment might protect the right of Americans “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” but some Texans found out today that it doesn’t bar elected officials from insulting people who exercise that right.

Today Equality Texas tried to deliver to the office of state Attorney General Greg Abbott thousands of petitions from Texans asking Abbott and Gov. Rick Perry to stop defending the state’s unconstitutional ban on same-sex marriage. But Abbott, who opposes marriage equality, decided to be petty about it and had the folks delivering those petitions turned away in the lobby. From an Equality Texas email earlier today:

Equality Texas and several same-sex couples and their families had planned to deliver over 5,200 petitions to Attorney General Greg Abbott urging that he and Governor Rick Perry drop their defense of the state’s hurtful and discriminatory ban on marriage for same-sex couples. Despite the plans prearranged last week in which a staff member would meet us in the lobby and take possession of the petitions, the Attorney General’s office said they would only accept the petitions if they were mailed via an acceptable ground carrier.

Not to be deterred, the families trucked the wagon down the street to a nearby UPS Store and the petitions will be delivered to the Attorney General’s office on Tuesday.

So instead of gracefully accepting petitions from his fellow Texans, Attorney General Abbott arrogantly decided to insult them and force Equality Texas to spend money, unnecessarily, to have the petitions delivered commercially instead. How petty.

More from Equality Texas:

Just as these families were turned away today, every day that these discriminatory laws remain in place is another day that Texas couples and their families are denied the dignity and respect they are due under the United States Constitution.

You can read the full email from Equality Texas here.

Posted in Greg Abbott, LGBT issues, marriage equality, TFNEF | 3 Comments

Houston Anti-Gay Leader Issues Chilling Call in Effort to Repeal Anti-Discrimination Ordinance

Dave Welch, head of the far-right Houston Area Pastor Council and one of the leading voices of anti-gay hate in Texas, is calling for “imprecatory prayers” as Houston officials review petition signatures from supporters of overturning the city’s new anti-discrimination ordinance.

Imprecatory prayers are those that ask God to burden, curse or even destroy wicked individuals and institutions. They typically are tied to the Bible’s imprecatory Psalms, such as Psalm 109:9 (“May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.”) and Psalm 137:9 (“How blessed will be the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.”).

In an article emailed to supporters over the weekend, Welch writes that city officials are nearly done determining whether there are enough valid petition signatures to put repeal of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance on the November ballot. He calls on repeal supporters to pray while city officials finish that work:

“PRAY - imprecatory prayers for the Lord to oversee every detail and every person involved, to expose any impropriety, to bind spiritual forces of darkness in the city and to send confusion into the enemy camp.”

We’ve seen more and more prominent religious-righters call for imprecatory prayer in recent years. In 2009, for example, California pastor Wiley Drake issued a call for imprecatory prayers for the death for President Obama. That same year, former Navy chaplain Gordon James Klingenschmitt, a religious-right hero, urged followers to offer imprecatory prayers calling for the death of the Rev. Barry Lynn, the head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Two years ago, far-right evangelical leader Scott Lively celebrated the destruction of a strip club in Springfield, Massachusetts, as an answer to his calls for imprecatory prayers to “re-Christianize” that city.

We’re not sure what in the world Welch means with his calls for imprecatory prayers regarding the HERO repeal effort. But whether or not he really wants the destruction of anyone (or any institution) in Houston, his call is chilling and dark. History is full of disturbed people who have done horrible things in the twisted belief that they were carrying out God’s will.

The Houston City Council passed HERO in May. HERO bars discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation, gender and gender identity, race, religion, military status and other characteristics. City officials have until early next week to announce whether Welch and his allies gathered enough valid petition signatures to send HERO’s repeal to voters.

 

Posted in civil and equal rights, Dave Welch, Houston Area Pastor Council, Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, LGBT issues, TFN | 7 Comments