Archive for the ‘Texas Eagle Forum’ Category

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.

Testing a Conspiracy Theory

February 8, 2012

Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott raised eyebrows last month when he and State Board of Education members engaged in a discussion of the intense focus on testing students. Scott, an appointee of Gov. Rick Perry, called the overemphasis on testing at the state and local level a “perversion” of what accountability proponents had intended.

You might be surprised to know that religious-right groups also haven’t been big fans of state standardized tests. But over-testing hasn’t been their concern. We found in our files a Dallas Morning News article from March 5, 1996, (“Criticism about TAAS puzzles some officials,” no link) about opposition to the state’s standardized test at the time. Here’s an excerpt:

Kelly Shackelford of the Rutherford Institute says many of his clients think the tests are really a tool for “liberal, educratic elitists” who want to monitor students’ values and undercut their religious beliefs.

For example, in 1992 a state-administered test used a reading passage and graphs on the number of followers of different religions around the world. The parents complained that the question was designed to make all religions look equal, therefore undermining their children’s Christian beliefs.

They are also concerned that the questions ask children for their personal beliefs and that those beliefs may then be used against the students if they don’t conform to educators’ values.

“These questions are being asked in a secretive atmosphere,” Mr. Shackelford said. “A lot of people think it’s an attempt by these folks … to use the government to affect the minds of students and their belief systems.”

Some parents are afraid that the state is using opinion questions to spy on their children.

“Whoever has access to these students’ tests is of great concern to parents,” said [Cathie] Adams of the Texas Eagle Forum. “How do we know it’s not going to be shared with businesses? If a child has emotional problems when he’s 10 and he goes to apply to work at a large corporation when he’s 21, they’ll have his whole history.”

Have mercy. Tests are the secretive tools of “liberal, educratic elitists” engaged in anti-Christian, mind-controlling, school-corporate conspiracies? We’re kind of disappointed that Shackelford and Adams didn’t warn parents about the black helicopters delivering those subversive tests to schools across Texas.

You want to know what’s really scary? Shackelford — now head of Liberty Institute, the Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family — and Adams — once again head of Texas Eagle Forum and recently chair of the Texas Republican Party — continue to wield political influence over Gov. Perry and substantially more than a few state lawmakers.

Cathie Adams Is Back!

January 23, 2012

Texas Eagle Forum today announced that its current president, Pat Carlson, is stepping down because she is seeking election to the Texas House of Representatives. (We reported about Carlson’s House run here.)

Her replacement is Cathie Adams, who had served as TEF’s president until she became chair of the Texas Republican Party in fall 2009. But Adams wasn’t too popular among Republican activists — she lost her post as state party chair in 2010.

Adams is one of the most extreme voices on the far right in Texas today. How extreme? Let’s take a walk down memory lane.

– Adams sees religious diversity as a threat to this country. From an October 1999 TEF letter:

“(W)e must place our faith in the ONE true God, then humble ourselves, pray and seek Him and repent for our sins. Then God will forgive us and heal our land. Do you think that a jealous God will tolerate ‘religious pluralism’ and allow us to come to Him any way we please? Absolutely not!”

– Adams believes that the United Nations is paving the way for the “anti-Christ.”

From a 2000 TEF letter:

“The Bible tells us that in the end times there will be a world government headed by a world leader, called the anti-Christ, who will profess a world religion, but did you ever think you would live in the day when these things would come into being? That is exactly what the United Nations is doing behind the backs of most Americans.”

From a January 1999 TEF newsletter:

“In the future, the anti-Christ will use the pleas for human rights, economic equity and a promise to ‘end all wars’ to found global government. . . . God is not the author of global government, the anti-Christ is, and the UN conspicuously manifests his warmongering spirit.”

– Adams has compared President Obama to Adolf Hitler, suggesting that a speech to American students was “eerily like Hitler’s youth movement.”

– In an e-mail to far-right activists in 2008, Adams viciously attacked the faith of then-candidate Obama (page 40):

“While many question Barak [sic] Hussein Obama’s ‘religion’…, the more important question is whether he has a ‘relationship’ with Jesus Christ because that is the only HOPE that any of us have to obtain eternal life. I personally see NO evidence that Obama has that kind of ‘saving faith.'”

Adams is an anti-science zealot.

Criticizing evolution in an October 2003 email to TEF activists during the Texas State Board of Education’s debate over proposed new science textbooks:

“Did you evolve from an ape or were you created by God? This is NOT a rhetorical question. Your child or grandchild WILL be taught according to what you choose now.”

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TX Eagle Forum Head Runs for State House

January 3, 2012

Pat Carlson, president of the radical-right group Texas Eagle Forum, has filed to run for the District 91 seat in the Texas House of Representatives. The Fort Worth Republican used TEF’s e-newsletter Monday to announce her run for the open seat. (Republican incumbent Kevin Hancock is seeking a state Senate seat.) Carlson told TEF activists:

“I am seeking this position to be a ‘citizen legislator’ going to Austin to hold back the overreach of government.”

“Overreach”? Well, considering her own fringe political views, Carlson should know the meaning of that word.

She claims, for example, that mainstream organizations like the Sierra Club, Environmental Defense Fund and the World Wildlife Federation are actually “radical environmental groups” that have “have brainwashed a generation of young people into believing the planet is in environmental distress.” (Yeah, never mind massive oil spills that pollute our water and beaches, smog that chokes cities and their residents, chemical and nuclear calamities, increasingly erratic climate patterns, and… well, you get the point. Carlson thinks concerns over those very real challenges are simply products of “brainwashing.”)

She also peddles anti-Muslim hysteria, ranting that mosques are centers of subversion in America and that “Sharia law is becoming part of the American landscape as Christianity is being systematically removed.”

After the 2010 elections, she was part of an unsuccessful right-wing effort to replace Republican state Rep. Joe Straus of San Antonio as speaker of the Texas House. Carlson — a strident opponent of sex education — circulated the claim that Straus wants Planned Parenthood to “control” sex education in Texas public schools, which PolitiFact rated as a “pants on fire” lie.

Other right-wing attacks on Straus, who is Jewish, included calls for the election of a “Christian conservative” speaker. We’ll give Carlson some credit for not going quite that far. But just last month, Carlson suggested that a Republican member of the State Board of Education couldn’t be a “true conservative” because he’s gay.

So let’s see: rabidly anti-environment, anti-Muslim, anti-sex eduction and anti-gay. And that’s just for starters.

Carlson faces four other Republicans in the Republican primary for the District 91 House seat: Barbara Nash of Arlington and Ken Sapp, Charles Scoma and Lady Theresa Thombs, all of North Richland Hills. No Democrat filed for election to the seat.

Bigotry and Ignorance from TX Eagle Forum

December 5, 2011

Texas Eagle Forum’s December “News and Notes” e-newsletter offers more of the bigotry and pro-ignorance rhetoric we’ve come to expect from that far-right group.

Part of TEF President Pat Carlson’s email notes a Dallas Morning News report about a whisper campaign that led State Board of Education member George Clayton, R-Richardson, to acknowledge recently that he is gay. The newsletter continues:

Because of redistricting, all 15 SBOE seats will be up for election in 2012. We need to recruit and elect/re-elect true conservatives to these important positions so Texas will not go the way of Massachusetts or California in mandating K-12 pro-homosexual education in the classroom.

Gay people can’t be “true conservatives”? Perhaps Carlson’s version of a “true conservative” is one who promotes fear and hate toward people who are different. And what exactly does she mean by a “pro-homosexual education in the classroom”? To our knowledge, Clayton has never even mentioned the issue of sexual orientation in his time on the state board (not, at least, until his personal life was the subject of a whisper campaign by political opponents). Most likely, Carlson simply wants to make sure that state board members don’t object to efforts by far-right pressure groups to demonize gay people in textbooks and other instructional materials, as they tried during the adoption of health textbooks in 2004.

And speaking of health, Carlson’s e-newsletter also noted the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund’s new report showing that more public school districts in the state are moving toward an abstinence-plus approach on sex education. Carlson’s group insists on abstinence-only sex ed policies that keep young people ignorant about even basic, medically accurate information on contraception and disease prevention. From the TEF e-newsletter:

The ONLY PROVEN method to prevent teenage pregnancy is abstinence. Abstinence-plus education gives kids mixed messages—“don’t have sex, but if you do, use a condom.” Condoms and other forms of contraception do not “protect” a teen’s heart and mind from emotional distress and pain, nor prevent pregnancy or STDs 100% of the time; only abstinence does.

What Carlson doesn’t want her readers to know is that Texas has one of the highest teen birth rates in the nation yet has received more federal abstinence-only funding than any other state. Even now most school districts in the state teach abstinence-only or nothing at all when it comes to sex education. In a state where, on average, a teen gets pregnant ever 10 minutes and teen childbearing costs taxpayers about $1.2 billion annually, abstinence-only ignorance clearly hasn’t been a good education strategy.

Congrats, Rep. Christian!

September 21, 2011

We were perusing through the far-right Texas Eagle Forum’s website the other day and found this: The Eagle Forum’s legislative scorecard for the 82nd Legislature that concluded mid-summer.

Ranking as the most conservative on the Eagle Forum’s list, and the only legislator — in the House or Senate — to receive a 100 percent rating was Rep. Wayne Christian, R-Center. It means Rep. Christian voted in lockstep with the Eagles Forum’s issues on everything, including the abortion sonogram bill, the attempt to replace Speaker Joe Straus with a so-called “real conservative,” the fight against the Sharia Law boogeyman, defunding Planned Parenthood and sending the message to schoolchildren that, hey, bullying is just a rite of passage.

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Saving America from Marxists and Progressives!

August 9, 2011

“Saving America from Marxists and Progressives” is just one of the sessions at an upcoming right-wing confab being promoted by Eagle Forum and its far-right affiliate in Texas. The group promises that Eagle Council XL in Virginia next month (September 16-17) “will be a tremendous experience in training to accomplish our legislative and political goals.” Some of the other sessions participants can attend:

  • How to Stop Liberals from Stuffing the Ballot Box (But what about right-wing efforts to limit ballot access for minorities, the poor and the elderly?)
  • How to Keep Foreign Laws Out of U.S. Law (Sharia hysteria!)
  • How to Be a Delegate to the Republican National Convention (What about the Democratic National Convention? Looks like Eagle Forum is playing fast and loose with its tax-exempt, nonprofit status.)
  • How to Stop School Tax Increases and Bond Issues (Education is overrated anyway, right?)
  • Will Agenda 21 and U.N. Treaties Steal Your Property? (Black helicopters!)
  • Saving College Students from Leftwing Indoctrination (Once Eagle Forum is finished with defunding public education, who will be going to college anyway?)

Participants also get a two-hour tour of the U.S. Capitol led by Texan Rick Green from David Barton’s historical revisionist outfit WallBuilders. But will Green explain how his experience as a former two-term Texas legislator with no degree in history qualifies him as an expert who can really instruct his tourists about “the rich history of faith behind our nation’s founding”? While he’s at it, actually, maybe he can also explain why he thinks torturing detainees isn’t any worse than his sister teasing him when they were kids. (Green appears to have removed that pro-torture post from his website, but nothing ever really disappears from the Internet.)

Most Eagle Council XL attendees probably won’t care, of course. They’re more interested in learning how to save America from Marxists, liberals and public schools.

More Sharia Hysteria from Eagle Forum

April 18, 2011

In an e-mail to right-wing activists today, Texas Eagle Forum is lying again about legislation the group says would protect Texas from Sharia law:

Decisions are being made by some US courts based on that Sharia law rather than US or state laws. The UK has 85 Sharia courts that have the same authority as the UK common law courts (an incompatible parallel system.) We do not want to see that happen in the US.

We told you about those bills earlier this month. Texas Eagle Forum is treating its own activists like imbeciles. The truth is that there is no chance of “Sharia courts” being imposed on Americans. The U.S. Constitution forbids it (the same Constitution that protects religious freedom for everyone, not just the extremists at Texas Eagle Forum).

This really isn’t about “Sharia law” in America. Texas Eagle Forum is simply stirring up hate and prejudice against a minority religious group. This is the same kind of bigotry that for decades was directed (and sometimes still is) at Roman Catholics and Jews in this country. Similar tactics, different target.

Give Us ONE Good Reason

March 30, 2011

Why wouldn’t you want a state entity to operate more efficiently and transparently? That is a question that no one had a good answer for Tuesday evening as the House Committee on Public Education took up HB 862, legislation sponsored by state Rep. Diane Patrick, R-Arlington, that would place the Texas State Board of Education under periodic “Sunset review.”

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RR Groups Oppose Anti-Bullying Bill

March 2, 2011

Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller testified yesterday at a Texas House Public Education Committee hearing (archived video of the hearing here) in support of legislation to help schools better protect their students from bullying. Tragically, unrelenting harassment and bullying have led some Texas students — like 13-year-old Asher Brown last September — to take their own lives. Religious-right groups opposed to the bill, however, decided to put politics ahead of protecting Texas students from harm.

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Fanning the Flames of Bigotry in Texas

February 3, 2011

The Texas Eagle Forum’s verbal attacks on American Muslims are growing ever more paranoid and shrill. A new e-mail from the group’s president, Pat Carlson, brings another example.

Wednesday’s e-mail featured an article from The Torch, the group’s online newsletter, in which Carlson promotes absurd fears that Muslims are working to take over the United States by imposing Sharia law. Indeed, Carlson’s article — “Identifying Radical Islam” — reads like a long screed based on the most paranoid rantings of anti-Muslim bigots in America today. For example:

“Political correctness has blinded many to the growing threat of Islam in the United States. September 11, 2001, should have been the wake-up call. Instead, Sharia law is becoming part of the American landscape as Christianity is being systematically removed.”

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TX, GOP Groups Ask: Should Texas Secede?

January 6, 2011

Texas Eagle Forum and the Denton County Republican Party are promoting a conference this month that will ask attendees whether Texas should secede from the United States. The Blackstone Blitz Workshop on the Constitution is set for Jan. 15 at a Baptist church in Lewisville just outside Dallas. Among the topics:

* How can we employ the worldview approach to understanding and reviving the Constitution?

* Who is the Constitution’s worst enemy?

* How can we effectively fight this enemy?

* What are the primary Judeo-Christian principles we must define and defend?

* Is there any validity to Humanists’ call for “relativism,” separation,” pluralism/diversity,” “tolerance,” etc.?

* Can Americans do anything to curb the courts – replace judicial supremacy with constitutional supremacy?

* Can Texas secede? If so, should we?

The conference is a project of the Abilene (Texas)-based Blackstone Institute, an openly militant promoter of the “culture wars” whose mission “is to declare and defend the Judeo-Christian worldview of the Constitution, law, philosophy, and theology with programs that inform and inspire.” “America is engulfed in the all-consuming flames of a Culture War from which no one and no area of American life can escape,” the website declares. It goes on to insist: “The Constitution’s principles and purposes are defined and prioritized by the Judeo-Christian value system.”

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The Right Lies Again in the TX Speaker Battle

December 13, 2010

TFN Insider has already reported about the religious campaign the far right has been waging against Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio. Now PolitiFact offers a clear example of how the religious right is also spreading distortions and falsehoods in the effort to replace Straus with another speaker far more likely to obey their commands on radical social policies.

PolitiFact notes today that Texas Eagle Forum has claimed that Straus “was co-author of a bill that would have allowed Planned Parenthood to control public school sex education.” But after looking at the public record, PolitiFact rates that claim as a “Pants on Fire” lie.

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Texas Eagle Forum’s Contempt for Democracy

December 7, 2010

The political extremists who run Texas Eagle Forum — the state affiliate of Phyllis Schlafly’s far-right group — apparently think voters have too much influence over our nation’s laws and lawmakers. The group’s fall newsletter, Torch, includes an article attacking “democracy” and even the direct election of U.S. senators. Declaring that “America is not a democracy,” the article sharply criticizes passage of  the 17th Amendment (added to the Constitution nearly a century ago), which calls for U.S. senators to be elected directly by each state’s voters (rather than chosen by state legislatures):

“The 17th Amendment destroyed a major safeguard of the federal republic by allowing senators to be chosen by the public, rather than by the states.”

The article, headlined “Save the Republic from Democracy,” was originally published on the fringe-right website WorldNetDaily last August. The writer, Henry Lamb, has openly called for the repeal of the 17th Amendment. He and others on the right are especially angry that the U.S. Senate passed health care reform earlier this year. Of course, senators who voted for health care reform were simply doing what they had promised voters they would do. But Lamb and Texas Eagle Forum think that’s a problem.

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Religious Right Targets Speaker Straus

November 10, 2010

Battle lines are forming in the newest “culture war” flash point in Texas: the state House of Representatives. In fact, religious-right pressure groups are working furiously to replace Republican Joe Straus of San Antonio with a hard-right Speaker of the House. Each day brings a new attack in the far right’s “scorched earth” strategy, with pressure groups denouncing Speaker Straus and his GOP supporters as “liberals” and “RINOs,” or “Republicans in name only.”

Dave Welch, head of the far-right Texas Pastor Council, suggests that Straus stands in the way of “moral law.” In an e-mail Monday, Welch even called on clergy to contact House members in opposition to Straus.

On Tuesday the president of the anti-everything Texas Eagle Forum, Pat Carlson, sent an e-mail to far-right activists attacking Straus: “We must not allow him to be elected speaker again.”

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