Author Archive

Fox News’ Huckabee: Get Your Facts Straight

March 16, 2012

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has some gall.

In the wake of this week’s silly spat over the Doonesbury series of comic strips depicting a woman undergoing a state-forced transvaginal sonogram before getting a completely legal medical procedure, Huckabee called out Doonesbury author Garry Trudeau for not checking his facts. In doing so, Huckabee ironically failed to check his facts and instead relied on — of all people — far-right Texas state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, for his information.

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Bipartisan Rejection of Eagle Forum Hysteria

March 1, 2012

The Texas Eagle Forum strolled into the wrong committee hearing last month (video below).

It was on Feb. 17 when the Texas House Committee on Public Education met in Austin to take up interim charges at a hearing on charter schools. Speaking at the hearing, TEF Vice President MerryLynn Gerstenschlager asked lawmakers to pass legislation requiring charter school operators to be U.S. citizens.

Why? Fethullah Gulen.

We’ve seen this song and dance before. When your goal is to stoke irrational fears, it’s always best to have a bogeyman you can point to. And for a few years now, far-right pressure groups like TEF have settled on Gulen and Harmony Charter Schools.

It goes like this: Fethullah Gulen, who is a billionaire Turkish Muslim living in Pennsylvania, funds numerous charter schools across the country — including some in Texas — under the name of Harmony Charter Schools. Ergo: Muslim+schools+children=Indoctrination. At least, that’s the way TEF sees it.

But to hear TEF tell it, the problem is not that Gulen is Muslim. Says Gerstenschlager:

“There is an emphasis on Turkish culture. And that is fine. But it seems to be a common thread throughout these schools. And I wonder if they spend as much time teaching about American culture. That is my concern, that young impressionable children will become sympathetic towards Turkey and I wonder where their allegiance will lie.”

And that’s really the only evidence TEF has offered to support the claim that Gulen aims to indoctrinate — that Gulen is Turkish. As you’ll see, Gerstenschlager repeatedly denies that Gulen’s faith has anything to do with it, but she also claims that Gulen is tied to radical Islamism. Which begs the question: Would TEF even be at this hearing if Gulen were, say, a Christian born in Turkey?

But when Gerstenschlager testified at the committee hearing, both Republicans and Democrats would have none of it.

Who says the parties can’t agree on anything these days?

Far-right activists in Texas are so obsessed with Gulen that during the last legislative session they were willing to shut down government in order to push their divisive propaganda.

Whether they have a problem with all foreign-born billionaires allegedly using their wealth to influence America from within, or just the Muslim ones, is unclear. But we think it’s just the Muslim ones. All other ones (see Murdoch, Rupert) are probably fine.

Graham Apologizes

February 29, 2012

Was that so hard, Franklin Graham?

From Religion News Service:

“I regret any comments I have ever made which may have cast any doubt on the personal faith of our president, Mr. Obama. I apologize to him and to any I have offended for not better articulating my reason for not supporting him in this election — for his faith has nothing to do with my consideration of him as a candidate.”

And it only took Graham a week to say this. Background from TFN Insider here.

Heathen U

February 25, 2012

Rick Santorum just cannot help himself. Political pundits and strategists affiliated with his own party have been virtually screaming at him, telling him that if he wants any shot at winning in November he needs to quit the culture wars and stick to jobs, jobs, jobs. But, again, he just can’t help himself.

On Thursday, Santorum sat down with professional conspiracy theorist and right-wing radio talk show host Glenn Beck for a wide-ranging interview, during which he dropped this whopper:

I understand why Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college, because of their indoctrination mills, absolutely. The indoctrination that is going on at the university level is a harm to our country.

The proof? For President Obama’s alleged nefarious motivations, Santorum offered none. For colleges as “indoctrination mills,” Santorum noted that “62 percent of kids who go into college with a faith commitment leave without it.”

62 percent? Wow, that is a big number, isn’t it? You know what’s an even bigger number? 76 percent (more on this in a bit).

We were curious, so we went looking for the source of Santorum’s information and found that the Republican presidential candidate likes his facts picked like cherries and is likely guilty of a lie of omission.

The info appears to come from this study published in 2007 in the Social Science Research Council’s journal Social Forces (hat tip to PBS for pointing us to it).

The study does say that 64 percent — not 62 percent — Yikes! It’s even worse than Santorum thought! — of students enrolled in traditional four-year colleges report a decline in attendance in religious services. But what the study also says and that Santorum neglected to mention is this:

Yet, 76 percent of those who never enrolled in college report a decline in religious service attendance.

And this:

Simply put: Higher education is not the enemy of religiosity. Instead, young people who avoid college altogether display a more precipitous drop in their religious participation.

According to the very same study cited by Santorum, colleges as secularizing machines are about as real as the mythical “war on religion” and “war on Christmas.”

In fact, the study notes there are many other reasons why young adults become less religious, but that framed diploma hanging on their walls isn’t one of them.

Franklin Graham’s Double Standard

February 21, 2012

Unbelievable.

Just a few days ago we told you about a good ol’ tactic right-wingers like to use: questioning a politician’s Christianity or claiming the politician is not Christian at all.

This morning it was Franklin Graham’s turn. Graham, the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham, was on MSNBC’s Morning Joe taking questions from the panel. The conversation went something like this (quotes paraphrased):

MSNBC: Is President Obama a Christian?

Graham: Ask him. I assume he is, but it’s not for me to say.

MSNBC: What about Mormon Mitt Romney, is he a Christian?

Graham: I can’t know what’s in another man’s heart.

MSNBC: Is Rick Santorum a Christian?

Graham: Oh, totally.

MSNBC: But you just said …

Graham: I know what I said. Rick Santorum is a Christian.

MSNBC: Isn’t that a double standard?

Graham: You have to look at what a person does with his life (this one is an actual quote). Oh, and by the way, thrice-married Newt Gingrich is a Christian, too.

You can watch the actual exchange in its entirety here.

If you’ve finished watching the clip and are done beating your head against your desk, click here to read about a coalition of Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, and religious liberties organizations that has called for an end to this kind of divisive rhetoric.

Aspirin as Birth Control

February 16, 2012

It’s thinking like this that filters down to school sex ed policies and gives states such as Texas a horrible track record with teen birthrates:

“Back in my days, we used Bayer aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.”

That was said today by mutual fund manager Foster Friess, who — along with his deep pockets — is supporting Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum.

Let us repeat: That was said today, in the 21st century, not a hundred years ago.

Seriously, these guys are giving us a headache. If only there was something we could take for that. If only.

Are You Fracking Kidding Me?

December 19, 2011

Maybe it’s the stress of the campaign. Maybe it was another gaffe by the gaffe-prone governor. Maybe it’s just simply a change of heart.

But whatever the reason, Gov. Rick Perry exposed himself this weekend as a lover of scientific evidence. For reals.

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Colbert Takes on Texas State Rep

November 8, 2011

Here we go again. Will Texas ever go, say, an entire year without becoming fodder for the likes of Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert?

Another Texas lawmaker became the punchline last night on Colbert’s Comedy Central show. This time it was state Rep. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, and his use of an ethnic slur during a committee hearing last week.
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‘Drug-Based Sex Education’ Redux

November 2, 2011

In our latest episode of “Liberty Institute Says the Darndest Things,” we look at the Focus on the Family Texas affiliate’s use of a fear-mongering term we’ve covered before, but this time we have audio of it.

We’re talking about “drug-based sex education,” an absurd construction used (maybe even coined) by LI’s Austin-based lawyer/lobbyist any time he argues against comprehensive sex education and for the failed abstinence-only programs that dominate sex education classes in Texas schools.
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Don ‘Incendiary’ McLeroy

October 31, 2011

The picture above of current Texas State Board of Education member Thomas Ratliff, R-Mt. Pleasant, pointing (sort of) at former board chair Don McCleroy, R-Bryan, is not directly related to what you’re about to read, but it will be what springs to mind when you’re done with this blog post.

A few weeks ago TFN President Kathy Miller shared a dais with McLeroy for a panel discussion on the SBOE during the Texas Tribune’s Tribune Festival. That’s where McLeroy blamed the culture wars at the SBOE on his and the far right’s willingness to put personal agendas and politics above the best interests of Texas’ schoolchildren.

Just kidding. McLeroy actually blamed TFN and what he called our “incendiary” language for sparking the culture wars at the SBOE. That’s right, he blamed TFN. Let that one sink in for a moment.

Here was McLeroy’s response when panel moderator and Tribune reporter Morgan Smith posed the question of whether the culture wars and politics distract board members from the important work before them (audio of the full conversation from the Tribune):

Back in 1994 you had the rise of prominence and political clout of conservatives on the State Board of Education. That triggered a response from a lot of people that I would call secular-minded. And they were real concerned that these religious conservatives would put forth views — they would propose their own views over all others. And what happened was that you saw these people get organized. I would say they were the one’s that initiated the culture war. “Freedom” even became their middle name.

The problem is they’re not right. The TFN got organized — Kathy’s group got organized, in 1995 Cecile Richards, got it organized — and they’re just not right about things. But everybody, of course, knows they’re not right.

Really, Dr. McLeroy? TFN is behind the culture wars at the state board? Well, let’s look at the record here. It’s McLeroy who has attacked public education, sharpened religious divisions on the state board, promoted a book that labels as “monsters” parents who teach their children about evolution, thinks science classes should teach about the supernatural, and said “education is too important not to politicize.” TFN Insider has documented much more from McLeroy, which you can find here. And here are just a few of the video clips of McLeroy pushing the culture wars:

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Where Did the Guv Go?

October 27, 2011

This post has been updated

We were so looking forward to the One Nation Under God event organized by Champion the Vote, the national campaign that seeks to register evangelical Christians to vote. But now it seems our main reason for tuning in won’t even be there.

Gov. Rick Perry’s likeness and his name as an invited speaker have been scrubbed from onenationundergodevent.com, leaving Newt Gingrich as the only other Republican presidential candidate scheduled to appear.

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Move Over, Gov. Perry

October 24, 2011

We’ve chronicled Gov. Rick Perry‘s support for abstinence-only policies on sex education, including his odd statements on the topic in an interview with the Texas Tribune a while back.

Now, as he runs for the White House, Gov. Perry seems to have been outdone, beaten in a battle of extremists by one of his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination.

Former Pennsylvania senator and current GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum recently gave us an idea of what he thinks sex education should be like in this country. Indeed, if he had anything to do about it, sex education likely wouldn’t include a shred of information about contraception:

“One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country. It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

So would a President Santorum seek a return to the days when government could bar the use of contraception, even for consenting adults and among married couples? Sure sounds like it.

Renewal Projects: Copy, Paste, Repeat

October 21, 2011

The people behind religious-right activist David Lane’s Restoration/Renewal Projects are getting plain lazy to the point where they’re just hitting “copy-paste” on old material and distributing it in support of yet another Rick Perry political campaign.

The Iowa Independent reports members of the Iowa faith community recently received invitations from the Iowa Renewal Project to attend a “pastors’ policy briefing” to be held next month in Des Moines. The date will be less than two months before the state’s first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses at which Gov. Perry will rely heavily on votes from conservative evangelicals if he is to have a viable shot at the Republican presidential nomination.

TFN has for years been documenting the activities of the Texas Restoration Project, which was also organized by Lane appears to be almost a carbon copy of what the Iowa Renewal Project is now attempting. Restoration, Renewal, potato, po-tah-to.

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Coordinated Anti-Mormonism?

October 17, 2011

Mormonism, or the attacks on it, is in the news again this morning following a story in The Daily Beast that cites emails between a Christian radio executive and well-known religious-right activist David Lane.

The emails between Lane and Dick Bott of the Bott Radio Network seem to indicate the two were in cahoots to advance the anti-Mormon narrative that became controversial when Dallas pastor and Gov. Rick Perry supporter Robert Jeffress called the faith of Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney a cult and non-Christian.

The story posits that because Lane a long history as an important Gov. Perry supporter, perhaps the coordinated efforts were not between Lane and Bott alone, but also with Gov. Perry’s presidential campaign.

We’re not quite ready to take that leap. As Sarah Posner points out in another story published today in Religion Dispatches, the evidence for coordination between Gov. Perry’s campaign and Lane on this issue is thin right now. But there are other reasons to be distressed by these emails.

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BREAKING: World Ends Oct. 21

October 14, 2011

In breaking news out of California, radio evangelist Harold Camping predicts the world will end on May 21, 1988   September 6, 1994   May 21, 2011   October 21, 2011.

You know what they say? The fourth time is the charm.

So there you go, you have until next Friday to get your affairs in order. If you have a birthday next Friday, this news is upsetting. But not as upsetting as it is for the rest of us to know that someone cruelly picked the delicious International Day of the Nacho as the date of the Apocalypse.

Not that we would use the end of times for a shameless plug, but this also means TFN’s 16th annual gala next Thursday will be the last. Tickets can be purchased here.