HERO Won’t Be on the Ballot in November

TFN just sent the following message regarding today’s developments in the effort to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.

Photo By Thomas B. Shea,
for The Houston Chronicle

Today a state district judge set a trial date in January for a lawsuit filed by religious-right groups seeking a public election to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). That court date eliminates the possibility of a November public referendum to repeal the sweeping anti-discrimination measure. You can read more on today’s proceedings here.

The judge’s decision today came after HERO opponents asked the court to put the repeal referendum on the November ballot. The Houston city attorney said earlier this month that those opponents had not properly gathered enough petition signatures to put repeal up for a public vote.

We’ll continue to update you on any developments regarding HERO, and we’ll let you know of any opportunities to get involved to ensure that all Houstonians have equal rights.

Posted in civil and equal rights, Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, LGBT issues, TFNEF | 39 Comments

Talking Points

From today’s TFN News Clips:

“I think everyone here is doing it because we believe in the message and we ultimately want people to be saved. We want people to realize the Bible is trustworthy in matters of history and when it touches science. And because you can trust it in those areas, you can trust it when it comes to how to inherit eternal life.”

– Jason Lisle, an astrophysicist and research director at the Dallas-based Institute for Creation Research, which wants to show that science proves the biblical version of creation.

Stay informed with TFN News Clips, a daily digest of news about politics and the religious right. Subscribe here.

Posted in creationism, TFNEF | 1 Comment

Texas Pays Thousands to ‘Long-Discredited Quack’ to Help Defend Anti-Abortion Law

Today an attorney for plaintiffs seeking to block implementation of the state’s draconian anti-abortion law, last year’s House Bill 2, accused Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office of hiding the full extent of its collaboration with a discredited marriage therapist who insists that abortion causes mental illness. Quorum Report (subscription required) has the story on today’s action in the federal court case in Austin.

Whole Woman’s Health, which at one time provided abortion care at clinics in Austin and South and Southeast Texas, has asked the court to block implementation of HB 2 because it imposes an undue burden on women seeking an abortion. Far-right lawmakers and allied groups have celebrated as the onerous and medically unnecessary requirements in HB 2 have forced many abortion clinics to close in Texas. If HB 2′s final provisions go into effect on September 1, the number of abortion clinics in the entire state will drop to as few as six from a total of 41 in June 2013.

According to Quorum Report, the attorney for Whole Woman’s Health says the state AG has failed to disclose how much Florida therapist Vincent Rue had helped the state in the case against HB 2. The AG’s deception appears to have angered federal District Court Judge Lee Yeakel, who is hearing the case against HB 2. From the Austin Chronicle:

The state also sought to defend as common practice anti-abortion advocate Vincent Rue’s paid consultant work for the Attorney General – including extensive editing and drafting of defendant testimony. But Judge Yeakel slammed the AG’s office, saying the “state effectively tried to hide Rue’s involvement,” and describing the evidence as “very disturbing” in the eyes of the court.

Mother Jones reported on Wednesday that the AG has paid Rue more $42,000 in less than six months to aid its defense of HB 2. The AG did so despite Rue’s poor reputation. From Mother Jones:

(T)o defend its abortion restrictions, Texas brought in Rue, who helped draft, edit, and find citations for the reports its experts witnesses submit to the court. But Rue, who holds a doctorate in family relations from the University of North Carolina School of Home Economics, is an odd choice for the job—”a long-discredited quack,” in the view of one state representative from Wisconsin, where Rue performed similar defense work. Although Rue testified about the harms of abortion in two landmark abortion cases in the early 1990s, the judges in those cases dismissed his testimony as personally biased and lacking expertise. Rue has pushed the medical mainstream to recognize “post-abortive syndrome”—a mental illness that supposedly results from abortion—only to have organizations such as the National Center for Health Statistics pan his research. In 1981, he claimed in a report to the US Senate that “abortion re-escalates the battle between the sexes” and “abortion increases bitterness toward men.”

“He has been really thoroughly discredited by trial courts,” Priscilla Smith, who directs Yale Law School’s reproductive justice studies program, told Mother Jones in June; Smith faced Rue many years ago as a litigator.

This hasn’t stopped Rue from getting regular work as an expert on abortion, although he no longer testifies in court. In the past two years, Republican administrations in four states—Alabama, North Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin—have paid or promised to pay Rue $192,205.50 in exchange for help defending anti-abortion laws.

Your tax dollars at work, folks.

The law’s final provisions will go into effect September 1 unless Yeakel blocks them.

Posted in abortion, TFNEF | Leave a comment

Undercover Audio Reveals Intimidation Tactics of Anti-Abortion Extremists

An anti-abortion extremist gunned down Dr. George Tiller as the physician attended services at his church in 2009. Dr. Barnett Slepian lost his life after an extremist shot him through a kitchen window at his home in 1998. Another rifle-toting extremist murdered receptionists Shannon Lowney and Lee Ann Nichols and injured five others at their clinics in 1994. Anti-abortion extremists created “wanted” posters of Dr. David Gunn that included his photograph, telephone number and schedule. He was shot to death during an anti-abortion protest in 1993.

These are just a few of the doctors and other workers at abortion clinics who have been the victims of violence — including shootings, stabbings, bombings, arson — over the past two decades. Yet, anti-abortion extremists continue to stalk, intimidate and harass providers, clinic employees and even patients seeking abortion care. Now NARAL Pro-Choice Texas and Progress Texas have released an undercover audio (above) that reveals some of the disturbing tactics those extremists use: identifying and monitoring patients, providers and clinic staff; lining sidewalks outside clinics to dissuade patients from entering clinics; tracking and cataloguing the physical descriptions and car license plates of patients; searching tax records to find locations of new abortion providers. Learn more about the audio here.

Here’s a question to ask every candidate for office in Texas this year: will you stand up to anti-abortion extremists and condemn their dangerous intimidation and harassment tactics?

It’s time to #FightBackTx and tell politicians to stop the attacks on legal, safe abortion care for women in Texas.

Posted in abortion, TFNEF | 2 Comments

The Right’s Contempt for Women

You really have to wonder why some of the leading voices on the right have such a difficult time hiding their contempt for women.

This weekend, for example, the Houston Chronicle reported that Erick Erickson, editor-in-chief of the influential far-right website RedState, admitted he had been wrong when he called First Lady Michelle Obama a “Marxist harpy wife.” But he expressed dismay that his description of state Sen. Wendy Davis, the Democratic nominee for Texas governor, as “Abortion Barbie” might be offensive:

“The phrase was intentional to discredit Wendy Davis, but I never thought about ‘Barbie’ being something that demeaned women. I have an 8-year-old daughter who loves Barbie.”

Oh sure. Equating an accomplished attorney and elected official with a pretty-woman doll known for her remarkable figure, cute outfits and popularity among girls in elementary school? And using that to create a dismissive moniker for someone who opposes government interference in women’s reproductive health care? Gosh, who would be offended by any of that?

Erickson isn’t that stupid, but maybe he thinks everyone else is. In any case, he knows what he said is offensive. The problem is: he also knows that kind of misogynistic rhetoric is red meat for the far-right base.

And RedState’s attacks on Texas women aren’t limited just to Wendy Davis. Last week another post on RedState took aim at Amy Hagstrom Miller, founder of Whole Woman’s Health. Whole Woman’s Health offers abortion care to women but has been closing some of its clinics in Texas after the Legislature passed draconian an anti-abortion bill (House Bill 2) last year. Comparing those clinics to Nazi death camps, writer Steve Berman calls Hagstrom Miller a “monster” and a “witch.” And this:

“If Wendy Davis is, as Erick has so aptly bestowed upon her, ‘Abortion Barbie,’ then Amy Hagstrom Miller … is the High Priestess of the Coven of Death.”

Berman’s piece even repeats the discredited myth, manufactured and promoted by right-wing activists, that opponents of that anti-abortion bill last year brought jars of urine and feces to the Texas Capitol in protest. Berman calls those protesters “deranged.”

That’s how the right views women who think government has no business interfering in the personal decisions they make with their doctors about whether or when to have children.

Posted in abortion, TFNEF | 7 Comments

Join Us in Houston for “Confronting Poverty From the Heart of Faith”

TFN is proud to be a sponsor of — and participant in — the upcoming Faith and Reason conference in Houston next month, Sept. 18-20. Houston is lucky to host such a unique event, bringing together some amazing national speakers and local experts to tackle one of our most pressing issues: “Confronting Poverty from the Heart of Faith.”

Here’s a brief overview of the conference:

We all – whether religious progressives, secular humanists or justice activists – want to stop the widening gap between the rich and the poor.

We want to push back against the racism and gender discrimination that are embedded in the savage poverty and inequality that grip the process of governance in America.

We want to stand in solidarity with all people who are struggling against the dominating culture of the day. We want to stand with all woman, all workers, all immigrants, all LGBT people who are being denied fair and equal treatment.

Houston – Confronting Poverty From the Heart of Faith will bring together academics, progressives and justice activists from across the spectrum.

We’d like to invite you to come. Click the image below and register to attend.

Faith and Reason Conferece

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The Week in Quotes (Aug. 3 – 9)

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 | 2 Comments

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