See What You’ve Done Now? You’ve Made Ted Cruz Angry

Earlier today we saw this piece in the Dallas Morning News that observed how Sen. Ted Cruz had taken a more measured tone than his Republican presidential rivals on the case of Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk still refusing to obey the law and issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

But that was before Davis was held in contempt and jailed by a federal judge this morning. And now Cruz seems to be madder than his dad Rafael Cruz always seems to be. Cruz’s statement following the contempt finding:

Today, judicial lawlessness crossed into judicial tyranny. Today, for the first time ever, the government arrested a Christian woman for living according to her faith. This is wrong. This is not America.

No, Sen. Cruz, Davis was held in contempt and jailed not for her faith, but for her refusal to obey multiple court orders telling her to do, you know, the job she’s collecting a paycheck to do. A paycheck, by the way, that doesn’t bounce thanks to the taxes paid by some of the same people Davis is discriminating against.

But anyway, Cruz continued:

Those who are persecuting Kim Davis believe that Christians should not serve in public office. That is the consequence of their position. Or, if Christians do serve in pubic office, they must disregard their religious faith–or be sent to jail.

Actually, there are many, many county clerks who are Christian in Cruz’s home state of Texas, in Kentucky and in the other 48 states, who are complying with court rulings on marriage. There was, for example, the Denton County clerk who said she doesn’t agree with same-sex marriage, but that she still has a job to do and an oath to serve everyone to uphold.

It’s this simple, Sen. Cruz: None of us gets to pick and choose which one of our job duties we’d like to do. We either have to do what the job requires us to do or find another job. If Davis, or any other county clerk, can’t perform their job duties, well, you know the answer.

You can read Cruz’s full statement on Davis here.

Posted in marriage equality, religious right, Ted Cruz, TFNEF | 8 Comments

Clash of the Titans or the Loons?

Now this could be fun to watch.

On Wednesday former State Board of Education member Terri Leo, a Republican from Spring northwest of Houston, announced that she’s running for the Texas House of Representatives. She’s seeking the seat of incumbent state Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, who is seeking re-election.

Both Leo and Riddle orbit on the outer fringes of the political right. Will these two spend the next six months trying to out-crazy each other? Pass the popcorn!

For a decade, until she left at the end of 2012, Leo was part of the state board’s faction of hard-right social conservatives. The former Concerned Women for America activist repeatedly tried, for example, to force publishers to include creationist arguments against evolution in their public school science textbooks. Speaking in 2009 on a radio program hosted by phony historian and religious-right propagandist David Barton, Leo explained her opposition on evolution:

“They [scientists] don’t want to talk about the science because they lose that argument continually. The science is overwhelmingly against evolution.”

The following year, Leo’s sloppy Internet “research” led the board to vote to remove the author of the popular children’s book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? from the state’s curriculum standards. She claimed the author, Bill Martin, was a Marxist. An embarrassed board was forced to reverse its vote a few months later, after observers pointed out that Leo had mistaken the author for an academic with the same name who had written a book about Marxism. Editorial writers in the state’s newspapers had a field day, with one accusing the board of displaying “malignant stupidity.”

On another occasion during the 2010 curriculum debate, Leo insisted that the state’s new social studies standards not use “capitalism” to describe the free enterprise system. She complained that “liberal academics” liked the term, absurdly arguing:

“Let’s face it, capitalism does have a negative connotation. You know, ‘capitalist pig!’”

She also opposed sex education in a state with one of the highest teen birth rates in the nation. In 2004, for example, Leo ignored a successfully fought efforts  to add basic information on contraception to the state’s health textbooks. She insisted that the new textbooks should teach abstinence as the only way to prevent unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. She also demanded (unsuccessfully) that the textbooks portray gay people as “more prone to self-destructive behaviors like depression, illegal drug use and suicide.”

Leo also dabbled in anti-Muslim hysteria, supporting in 2010 for a divisive and inaccurate state board resolution alleging that history textbooks are pro-Muslim and anti-Christian.

Riddle clearly holds her own when it comes to who says the kookiest things. Shortly after taking her seat in the Texas House for the first time in 2003, for example, Riddle launched this bizarre attack on public education:

“Where did this idea come from that everybody deserves free education, free medical care, free whatever? It comes from Moscow, from Russia. It comes straight out of the pit of hell. And it’s cleverly disguised as having a tender heart. It’s not a tender heart. It’s ripping the heart out of this country.”

She is so reflexively anti-government that last year she praised Nevada’s renegade rancher Cliven Bundy as a “brave patriot” and attacked federal law enforcement officials as “jack booted thugs.” Bundy’s persistent refusal to stop grazing his cattle on federal land for free — essentially stealing from taxpayers — had led to a standoff between his fringe (and armed) anti-government supporters and federal agents. Bundy also revealed some bizarre racial ideas when he insisted that “negroes” were better off as “slaves, picking cotton.”

Riddle has also suggested that supporters of women’s access to abortion care are worse than the Nazis. And she has offered an incredibly offensive take on why minorities oppose her efforts to crack down on immigration:

“(W)hen you have people that are used to entitlements, then they like the entitlements and they want the entitlements to keep coming.”

It says something that two candidates who are so extreme will be facing each other in the GOP primary for that Houston-area House seat. The question is how tea party and religious-right activists will choose which fanatic to support.

Posted in Debbie Riddle, Terri Leo, TFNEF | 3 Comments

Pro-Public Ed Pastor Group Files Texas Court Brief Rejecting Tax-Funded Vouchers for Religious Schools

Pastors for Texas Children, a pro-public education group, is warning that the creation of a “parallel private system of education” funded with tax dollars — through vouchers or other schemes — would violate the Texas Constitution and harm the religious schools proponents of such a system want to fund.

That warning came in a brief the group filed on Tuesday with the Texas Supreme Court, which just took up a major case on whether the state’s current system for funding public education meets constitutional requirements.

The Pastors of Texas Children brief follows a brief from a religious-right group, the Houston-based U.S. Pastor Council, which argued that the state’s failure to give taxpayer dollars to sectarian schools is evidence of an anti-religion bias and threatens religious freedom. Pastors for Texas Children flatly rejects such arguments, warning that such schemes would actually harm religious schools:

“The last thing our fine public schools need is more dollars drained away from them, and the last thing our fine private schools need is the government intervention and oversight that will inevitably and necessarily follow the public money they receive.”

The Pastors for Texas Children brief also notes the lack of evidence showing that students who use private school vouchers perform better than their public school counterparts and points out that private schools accepting vouchers are not held to the same standards as public schools. It goes on to argue that faith flourishes when government respects separation of church and state:

The current public school system does not force anyone to attend a public school or obtain a secular education. Private religious education is available to anyone who cherishes it enough to bear the cost. We prefer the system where those who love and cherish a faith have to bear the cost of that faith. That is the way faith flourishes.

Faith is strong and alive in America because of the freedom of religion and the separation of church and state. In the places where this is not true, the church is an empty shell. Depending on the state for funds is a death sentence for free religion and vibrant faith.

You can read the full brief from Pastors for Texas Children here. Read more about Pastors for Texas Children on the group’s website here.

Posted in TFNEF, vouchers | 2 Comments

Kentucky Clerk Refuses to Do Her Taxpayer-Funded Job, Cites ‘God’s Authority’

A Kentucky county clerk is still refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of such unions and the high court’s refusal on Monday to protect her “right” to not do her job. So here’s what happened when a gay couple showed up in her office — again — to request a marriage license today:

As you can hear in this clip, the Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, declared that she was acting “under God’s authority” to refuse to issue the marriage license. Now a federal district judge has ordered Davis to appear in court and explain her refusal to obey a lawful court order. But religious-right groups continue to rally around her.

Religious-righters also encouraged a Texas county clerk to defy the courts on this issue — ultimately costing Texas taxpayers nearly $44,000. Will Kentucky taxpayers have to cover the legal costs caused by Davis and her supporters? We’ll see.

Posted in LGBT issues, marriage equality, TFNEF | 6 Comments

David Barton Lectures Pope Francis (Really)

On his Monday WallBuilders Live! radio program, phony historian and religious-right propagandist David Barton decided to lecture Pope Francis about the advice he gets. Yeah, seriously.

Barton and his sidekick Rick Green invited anti-climate science crank William Briggs on their show to criticize Pope Francis for his June encyclical calling climate change a “principal challenge” for humanity. International leaders and climate scientists have praised the encyclical. Right-wing pressure groups and political activists hated it. (Natch.)

So it wasn’t really surprising to hear Barton, Green and Briggs denounce the pope’s encyclical. But it was a little startling to hear them attack the pontiff for listening to people they described as atheists, abortion supporters and “global warming fanatics.” Barton even conflated political positions on issues like free market economics and climate science with being pro- or anti-God.

Here is Barton talking to Green in one segment of the show:

Barton: “The pope has done some really good things since he’s become pope. But it’s now coming out that some of the counsel he is given, some of the advice he is given, some of the encyclicals that are coming out, are being drafted by people who are his counselors who happen to be atheists, who also happen to be anti-God folks as well.”

Green: “Well, yeah, because like you said, he’s done some really good things, but he’s also said some things and done some things that you’re going, ‘wait, really? where’s the biblical basis for that?’”

Barton: “Kind of the attack on the free market system that’s happening. And now the stuff that’s going on with global warming and where he’s come down on that. And you look at the counselors behind that and you say, ‘Oh, I understand where he’s coming from now.’ … There’s a large part of the world that follows the pope’s advice. But what if the advice that’s being given is coming from ungodly beliefs and perspectives?”

Barton at this point introduces Briggs, referring to him as teaching at Cornell. Briggs proceeds to savage the pope for the appointment of Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, one of the world’s most respected climate scientists, to a major Vatican council on science.

Briggs attacks Schellnhuber, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, for being a “self-described atheist” and a “population control enthusiast.” Green weighs in, suggesting that Schellnhuber is “more of an environmental worshipper than a God worshipper.” Briggs calls Schellnburger a “big time global warming fanatic” and criticizes another Vatican adviser, Jeffrey Sachs. Briggs dismisses Sachs, a renowned economist and director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, as just another “population control enthusiast.” Here’s part of what Briggs said:

“What they mean by population control is, of course, abortion and contraception and the like. They don’t like people. They don’t like the idea there are more people than they can control, I guess. They’re suspicious of people. They just don’t like having people around. And so they’re always proposing these ideas that would eliminate people or would control what people do with their lives, particularly in the matter of having children.”

So who in the world is Briggs? He’s an adjunct professor at Cornell, teaching one course a year in statistical science. Among his jobs has been a short stint (1992-93) as a meteorologist at the National Weather Service after he got his undergraduate degree. Briggs has also served as an adviser to the Heartland Institute, a corporate-funded attack dog that rejects climate science.

Scientists and science writers have had a fun time ridiculing Briggs and his arguments (such as here). In short, climate scientist don’t take him seriously. Neither should anyone else, at least not on this topic.

All of which makes Barton’s closing remarks on his show today rather amusing:

“This is a good lesson for all of us. Check the friends you get your counsel from. See where you get your advice. Check who’s telling you what to do on Facebook. Check what sites you look on the web, where you get your news. It has a huge impact on the way you think.”

Indeed, David. We’ll certainly agree with you on that point. Perhaps you should take your own advice — or your listeners should.

Posted in climate change, David Barton, Rick Green, TFNEF, William Briggs | 3 Comments


rage_guy3Did you know our nation is at war? No, not just the terrorism/Al Qaeda one. Americans — or Americans with the appropriate religious beliefs, at least — are also at war with the “pro-homosexual left” and the “enemies of religious freedom.” Or so says religious-right groups like Texas Values, the Austin-based state affiliate of Focus on the Family.

Check out the following excerpt from an email Texas Values sent to its supporters on Thursday (with the grammar and spelling errors as well as the overly dramatic bolded and italicized text in the original). Then ask yourself what message those supporters are supposed to take away from it:

America today is occupied territory. The enemies of religious freedom occupy every power center from government to academia. Everyone except its spiritual core. Thank God, that power isn’t centered in Washington. It flows from the faith and values of its people, from a thousand churches and faith-filled homes across Texas and beyond.

That makes our pastors the Leaders of the Resistancee.

How does an invading army break the will of an occupied people? First, it identifies its Resistance Leaders. Next, it isolates and demoralizes them, making them think they’re alone and powerless. Then it breaks them––before the people can rally to their defense.

This is why your pastor is truly in the cross-hairs. Armed with not only the recent egregious Supreme Court same-sex ‘marriage’ decision but a host of lower-court rulings and guidelines, the pro-homosexual left is scouring Texas—America’s last stronghold of resistance—seeking “weakest link” communities and churches for a pre-emptive strike.

The email goes on to praise recently passed legislation in Texas to “protect” pastors from having to perform marriages that violate their religious beliefs. Of course, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution already provided that protection. Roman Catholic priests, for example, have always been free to refuse to marry individuals who have been previously divorced.

Appeals like the one in the Texas Values email distort the noble meaning and history of religious freedom in America. But just as disturbing is the increasingly violent and martial rhetoric from the religious right. “Occupied territory.” “Invading army.” “Resistance Leaders.” “Pre-emptive strike.” Frankly, the folks over at Texas Values sound almost unhinged.

But have no fear. All will be fine, the email suggests, if supporters provide a “sacrificial gift” to help Texas Values raise $25,000 to “fully fund” their “Protect Pastors educational campaign.”

Whew. All they want is money. So maybe we don’t have to worry that all the over-the-top rhetoric will persuade fanatics to turn to violence in advancing an ideological agenda. But that really wouldn’t happen anyway? Right?

Posted in religious freedom, Texas Values, TFNEF | 5 Comments

Lies from the Religious Right Target Abortion and Equality

Faith leaders teach that lying is a sin. So why do religious-righters distort the truth so shamelessly in pushing their extreme political agenda? You can see at least two big examples in Texas right now.

One of the biggest falsehoods religious-right groups are pushing right now is the claim that Margaret Sanger founded Planned Parenthood to help exterminate the African-American population through abortion and other methods. Today the right-wing Texas Pastor Council, a political front group run by odious hate-monger Dave Welch, tweeted a partial quote from Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger:

“We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population.”

We won’t help spread this nonsense by posting the full tweet here, but you can see it at the link above. The tweet includes a photograph and a phone number activists can call to demand that the Smithsonian Institution remove a bust of Sanger.

But wait. Did Sanger want to exterminate African Americans? Of course not. And PolitiFact has already debunked that claim as a ridiculous lie. It did so more than four years ago when checking a similar claim from Herman Cain, then a Republican presidential candidate. Cain had claimed that Planned Parenthood was guilty of genocide for planning to “kill black babies before they came into the world.” PolitiFact investigated the evidence and ruled Cain’s comment as a “Pants on Fire” lie.

The PolitiFact article even looked at the quote the Texas Pastor Council is pushing in today’s tweet. From PolitiFact:

Those who think Sanger wanted black genocide cite the Negro Project. But even their strongest evidence, a passage from a letter she wrote advocating that organizers recruit black ministers for the project, does not come close to proving a genocidal plot.

Sanger wrote that “We don’t want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs.”

But her correspondence shows this sentence advocates for black doctors and ministers to play leadership roles in the Negro Project to avoid misunderstandings. Lynchings and Jim Crow laws gave blacks good reason to be wary of attempts to limit the number of children they bore. In Harlem, she hired a black doctor and social worker to quell those fears.

The facts of the Negro Project suggest nothing more genocidal than a public health project. Black leaders DuBois and Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of the National Council of Negro Women, and the pastor of the influential black Abyssinian Baptist Church were members of its advisory council. First lady Eleanor Roosevelt was supportive.

For Sanger to launch a genocidal plot behind their backs and leave no true evidence in her numerous writings would require powers just shy of witchcraft.

Really, calling the Negro Project a genocidal plot defies common sense. Why would Sanger try to destroy a race of people by giving them access to the very thing she thought could make life better?

So the Texas Pastor Council — which includes folks who surely know that lying is a sin — purposely failed to include the full quote from Sanger and the context for that quote. Pants on fire, indeed.

But the mistruths don’t end there. Welch and his Texas Pastor Council are also leading the effort to repeal Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). They’ve based their campaign on another distortion: that the ordinance will allow men to go in to public restrooms to assault women and girls. But two years ago PolitiFact ruled that the same claims about San Antonio’s similar Non-Discrimination Ordinance — claims pushed by Welch’s religious-right buddy Jonathan Saenz of the far-right group Texas Values, an affiliate of Focus on the Family — were plainly false.

That won’t stop Welch and his cronies from pushing the same falsehood in Houston, of course. Their entire campaign is based on misleading voters to promote fear, hate and the freedom to discriminate. One could say that their campaign offers a pretty good case for why the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance is a good law. Click here to learn more about defending HERO.

HERO and similar measures protect everyone against discrimination, regardless of race, sex, age, military status, sexual orientation, gender identity and other characteristics. Opposing discrimination and treating everyone as equal under the law represent core American values. But religious-right activists challenge that value — and want to further restrict women’s access to abortion and other reproductive health care services — with an avalanche of lies.

Posted in abortion, Dave Welch, Houston Area Pastor Council, Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, Jonathan Saenz, Texas Pastor Council, Texas Values | 15 Comments

More Fear-Mongering from the Texas Renewal Project

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (speaking in a recorded message) and his father Rafael warned about religious persecution, homosexual domination of pulpits, and churches forced to hire pedophiles at a gather of about 1,000 pastors and their spouses in Austin this week, according to one of the attendees of the Texas Renewal Project event.

The Texas Renewal Project — launched in 2005 as the Texas Restoration Project — provides free lodging and meals for attendees who come to listen to select politicians and religious-right leaders demand that Christians assert control over American government. (Not just any Christians, mind you. They’re talking about fundamentalist Christians with a particular right-wing political view.) The funding source is unknown, but major campaign donors to then-Gov. Rick Perry paid for the six events in 2005. All of those events featured speeches by Perry in the run-up to his re-election race the next year.

In addition to Abbott and the Cruzes, this week’s event featured former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. Huckabee and Ted Cruz are both seeking the Republican nomination for president in 2016. David Barton, the phony historian and head of Texas-based WallBuilders, was among the religious-right leaders who spoke.

You can read the full report from the two-day gathering at Talk to Action here. Some excerpts:

Texas Governor Greg Abbott was the first featured speaker.  He reminded the audience of mostly pastors that there is a rising tide of hostility against religion threatening all of us.  He suggested pastors need to pass out voter guides in the church to help elect better leaders.  To guard against the loss of religious liberty he boasted he was the one as Attorney General who kept the Ten Commandment Monument on the lawn at the state capital. …

[Rafael Cruz] said the Danbury letter, used in history to defend separation of church and state in America, means that the wall is only one way.  That is, the wall of separation was set up to protect the church from government intervention, not vice versa. (First Amendment scholars disagree with his conclusion.) The ex-Communist next told us that in 1962, prayer was banned from public schools. In 1963, the Bible was banned. He said that Homosexual pastors can now come to your church and if you refuse to hire them you will be sued for Civil Rights violation. He next listed what he said were several lies from Democratic candidates. He gave his civics opinion on the American system of government. He proposed the Biblical version of government is local control, not Federal. He went on to state that the majority of pastors hide behind the pulpit scared to death of losing their tax exempt status. …

Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee was the last orator. He boasted he knows the prime Minister of Israel personally. He compared him to Winston Churchill. This friendship helped Mike to better understand the recent treaty with Iran. Huckabee said the Iran deal is phony. It places the world in great harm according to the candidate. He said we finance Iran’s military strength and Iran can then use this military weaponry against us. He noted through this treaty America is under contract to attack Israel instead of Iran in case of an Iranian attack on Israel. Mike noted our nation punished productive people and rewards slackers. We need to scrap the IRS  and the current tax code. He wants to replace this with a flat tax. There will be no income tax in his administration if he is elected. …

One of the underling themes of the meeting was the “what might happen” factor. There was little justification for the warnings. I spoke with religious liberty experts who assured me there wasn’t any push by anyone to force churches to hire gay pastors. Churches did not operate under the same guidelines as a business. [David] Barton stated that if a pedophile wanted to be hired by a church to work with children, the church could be sued if they did not hire him. I asked Barton in the hallway if he really meant this.  He assured me there were already court cases of pedophiles seeking to be hired in churches to work with children.

I spoke with several participants who sat there listening to these things. The ones I spoke to did not find the pedophile story outlandish. As in recent visits to these types of meetings, I have noted a common willingness to believe statements, no matter how outlandish. Barton has stated before that ministers who read from the book of Romans from the pulpit can now be arrested by the Federal Government.

Barton and Rafael Cruz have made similar arguments at earlier gatherings of the Texas Renewal Project. (See here and here, for example.)

Posted in David Barton, Greg Abbott, Rafael Cruz, Ted Cruz, Texas Renewal/Restoration Project, TFNEF | 4 Comments

Faith Leaders Support the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance

The Texas Freedom Network is helping faith leaders organize in support of the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance and its protections against discrimination for all Houstonians. Check out the email that just went out from Fran Watson, Faith Organizer for Houston Unites:

Faith leaders for HERO

Heads up, Houston: we’ve got some work to do.

As you’ve likely heard by now, the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance — that we worked so hard to pass just a year ago — is in jeopardy. On November 3, we have to win it again — this time at the ballot box. As a faith leader, we need you to speak out in support of HERO. Add your name to the pledge today.

As a native Houstonian who values faith and has a passion for equality, it is heartbreaking to see faith being used as a tool to attack members of our community, which in turn, creates a division that is contrary to what HERO is intended to do: unify the city by providing protections for ALL Houstonians.

That’s why I’m thrilled to come on board with the Texas Freedom Network and the Houston Unites campaign to magnify faith voices in Houston that support equality for everyone.

Faith leaders for HERO

The first thing you can do to help is sign the pledge. After signing the pledge, begin thinking about what your congregation can do or will continue to do to support HERO. Let’s have a conversation about how we can work together to support and ultimately pass HERO.

Just reply to this email and let me know you are ready!

In the spirit of equality,

Fran Watson headshot

Fran Watson
Houston Unites Faith Organizer

P.S. If you haven’t yet, make sure to “like” Houston Unites on Facebook and follow @Houston_Unites on Twitter for the latest in this historic campaign to defend Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance.

Posted in Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, TFN | 3 Comments

Redefining ‘Religious Liberty’ into Nothing?

Religious-righters are twisting and redefining “religious liberty” so much that the term itself is in danger of becoming almost meaningless. Fortunately, a growing number of mainstream religious leaders from around the state are calling out the nonsense. The latest battleground: public subsidies (such as vouchers) for religious schools.

The rabidly anti-gay, religious-right group Houston Area Pastor Council, which also goes by the name Texas Pastor Council and U.S. Pastor Council, is leading the effort to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). The group, led by one of Houston’s most vicious anti-gay activists, Dave Welch, claims that barring discrimination against people because of who they are or whom they love violates the religious freedom of people to, well, discriminate.

Then last week Welch’s group filed a brief with the Texas Supreme Court arguing that the failure of the state to provide taxpayer funding to faith-based schools is also a violation of religious freedom. The brief is for a major court long-running case on whether the way Texas funds its public schools violates the state Constitution. The Pastor Council argues, in part:

The total and complete exclusion of religious providers from the public education system severely implicates religious liberty, whereas their inclusion clearly does not violate religious liberty or the Establishment Clause per Zelman v.Harris, 536 U.S. 639 (2002). The parties have not brought this case as a religious liberty case. Consequently, while the issue of religious liberty is not directly before the Court, the exclusion of religious providers from the current system of public education severely implicates religious liberty under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the Texas Constitution and the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Just like the suggestion that discrimination is religious freedom, the argument that religious freedom requires government funding of faith-based institutions is absurd. It’s also dangerous to religious freedom itself.

In fact, Pastors for Texas Children, which includes more than 1,200 faith leaders from 500+ Texas churches of all denominations, is rightly arguing that public funding for faith-based schools would actually threaten religious liberty. From the group’s press release today:

God’s Word that is taught in our fine church schools needs no help from the State of Texas.

Government control always follows government dollars, whether in the form of vouchers or tuition tax credits. The last thing religious schools need is the oversight of governmental agencies. These schools were founded in the first place to have the freedom to teach without this regulation.

Religious liberty is a gift from Almighty God accorded to all people. This eternal and holy principle is expressed powerfully in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, expressly prohibiting government from making an “establishment of religion.”

Private school vouchers and tuition tax credits funding religious schools inevitably would support religious teaching contrary to certain individual citizens’ personal convictions, whether Baptist, Catholic, Hindu, Muslim, Wiccan, or atheist.

Pastors for Texas Children goes on to insist that Texas fully fund its public schools — something the Legislature has repeatedly refused to do. In fact, public schools are still struggling to deal with billions of dollars state lawmakers cut from public education in 2011. Pastors for Texas Children says the state’s failure to “make suitable provision” for public schools is a violation of the Texas Constitution. They’re right.

Advocates for giving public subsidies to private and religious schools, through vouchers or other schemes, seem just fine with the Legislature setting up public schools to fail by cutting their funding. Now they argue that sending tax dollars to faith-based schools is simply about religious freedom. Nonsense. The truth is that they’re simply looking for any argument that will help them dismantle public education.

Posted in Dave Welch, education, Houston Area Pastor Council, religious freedom, Texas Pastor Council, TFNEF, vouchers | 4 Comments