David Bradley Goes Courting

March 20, 2012 by

Like Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst this month and Gov. Rick Perry for years, David Bradley is courting conservative evangelical pastors in his bid for re-election to office.

Bradley, R-Beaumont Buna, will speak on March 27 at a luncheon for the Beaumont Area Pastor Council, which is affiliated with the right-wing Houston Area Pastor Council. From a Pastor Council email today:

“David has been a bulwark against liberal forces who want to rewrite our history books and insert liberal causes into school curriculum. These forces are also working diligently to get access to the Permanent School Fund for their own agendas.”

Bradley supported new social studies standards in 2010 that even the conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute criticizes as a “political distortion of history” with “misrepresentations at every turn.” One of the most divisive voices on the state board, Bradley also opposes sex education, wants to dumb-down instruction on evolution in science classes and rejects teaching social studies students that the Constitution protects separation of church and state. In 2008 he boasted that the state board “spanked” teachers who disagreed with its controversial decisions on curriculum standards. But the Pastor Council emails praises Bradley as supposedly being “on the front lines for our children and grandchildren.”

Bradley faces Republican Rita Ashley of Beaumont in the Republican primary on May 29.

Read more about the State Board of Education elections this year at TFN’s SBOE election online HQ.

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Dewhurst to ‘Brief’ Pastors on Voter ID Law

March 20, 2012 by

We told you earlier this month that Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst seems to be taking a page out of Rick Perry’s political handbook in his quest for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate this year. The lieutenant governor is scheduled to speak on Friday at a “private briefing” for pastors in Houston. Over the years Gov. Perry has made such “briefings” a key part of his political strategy to court the electoral support of conservative evangelical pastors. But we thought it was interesting how today’s email from the Texas Pastor Council (another name the Houston Area Pastor Council uses) highlights just one of the so-called “critical issues” pastors will hear Dewhurst discuss on Friday:

Pastors, this is your opportunity to receive a private briefing from our Lieutenant Governor on critical issues such as the controversial Voter ID law. We will also be briefed by Pastor Steve Riggle about our stand for traditional marriage and what it means to the city, state, and nation!

Riggle has been involved in an intense anti-gay attack campaign against Houston’s openly lesbian mayor, Annise Parker. But event organizers think pastors are particularly interested in having Dewhurst “brief” them about the Texas voter ID law.

Well, maybe they are. But we wonder whether any of them will ask the lieutenant governor what he thinks Jesus would say about a law that will make ballot access harder especially for low-income minorities and the elderly, all of whom are least likely to have driver’s licenses or other state-issued photo identification.

The Week in Quotes (March 11 -17)

March 18, 2012 by

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

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Fox News’ Huckabee: Get Your Facts Straight

March 16, 2012 by

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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Poll Respondents: WHAT War on Religion?

March 16, 2012 by

The religious right insists that faith is under siege in America. Far-right leaders and pressure groups have pushed the “war on religion” trope for years now. Texas Gov. Rick Perry even used it during his doomed presidential campaign last December. Most recently, the right has argued that the Obama administration’s policy on insurance coverage for contraception is part of this mythical “war.”

But a new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) shows that most Americans aren’t buying it. According to that poll, Americans by a 56%-39% margin say they don’t think religious liberty is under threat in America today. Of those who do believe religious freedom is threatened, only 6 percent mentioned the current debate over health insurance coverage for birth control. Others mentioned “hostility towards Christians/religion” (10 percent), “removing religion from the public square” (23 percent) and “general government interference in religion” (20 percent).

David Barton, president of Texas-based WallBuilders, plays especially on such fears. You can see that in Barton’s recent essay absurdly claiming that Barack Obama has been “the most Biblically hostile” American president.

The PRRI poll also shows that a majority of Americans support requiring that employers, including religiously affiliated employers other than churches and other places of worship, include coverage for contraception in their health insurance plans for employees. And 52 percent of Americans (including 59 percent of Catholics and 65 percent of white mainline Protestants) support the right to marry for gay and lesbian couples.

So the next time you hear folks on the right shrieking about a “war on religion” in America, just remember that most Americans know better.

You can read more about the poll on the PRRI’s website here.

TFN Launches SBOE Elections Online HQ

March 15, 2012 by

Ignorance isn’t a Texas value, but you wouldn’t know that by looking at the State Board of Education.

The state board approves textbooks and curriculum standards for Texas public schools. That’s a lot of power. But for years now, right-wing ideologues on the board have censored American history, rejected established science and ignored the recommendations of teachers and scholars. In fact, far-right board members have rallied around former board chair Don McLeroy’s bizarre declaration that “somebody’s gotta stand up to experts!”

For supporters of public education, it’s been maddening. And for most Texans, it’s been downright embarrassing.

So enough. It’s time for a new State Board of Education.

Because of redistricting, all 15 seats on the state board are up for election this year. To help educate voters about the board and how they can work to change it this year, the Texas Freedom Network today launched an online SBOE Elections HQ (tfn.org/educate). There you’ll find information about the board and its history, candidates in this year’s elections and an electoral analysis of each state board district.

More importantly, you can sign on to a pledge to help change the state board this year. TFN will give you the resources you need to get informed about the state board, talk to friends and family about the board elections this year and vote for candidates who will focus on kids, not politics and personal agendas.

So take the pledge and work this year for a new State Board of Education in Texas.

Pat Robertson OKs Marijuana, Oral Sex

March 15, 2012 by

Seriously. Is the apocalypse upon us?

Last week religious-right leader Pat Robertson declared that marijuana should be legal and treated like alcohol. Then yesterday he waded into the question of whether oral sex is sinful. From our friends at Right Wing Watch:

Food Stamps Recipients = Wild Animals?

March 14, 2012 by

Former Texas legislator Rick Green, a speaker for David Barton’s Texas-based WallBuilders organization and Barton’s sidekick on the daily WallBuilders Live radio program, clearly has a pretty low opinion of people who receive food stamps. In a repellent Facebook post  last week (image below), Green compared people who receive that government assistance to wild animals who become dependent on food from humans visiting national parks:

What a country…

The food stamp program, part of the Department of Agriculture, is pleased to be distributing the greatest amount of food stamps ever.

Meanwhile, the National Park Service asks us to “please do not feed the animals” because the animals may grow dependent and not learn to take care of themselves.

Never mind that the country is digging itself out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Most of us — but apparently not Green — might expect that public aid for struggling families would be higher than usual. What’s really astonishing here is the sneering contempt that Green has for those families.

Green and Barton claim WallBuilders promotes Christian values and what they see as America’s Christian heritage. We fail to see such values in Green’s disgusting attack on the poor and unemployed.

Rally in Austin Against the War on Women

March 13, 2012 by

For decades the religious right has tried to turn back the clock on women’s access to family planning services. That misguided crusade is now putting even basic health care like pap smears and breast exams at risk for low-income, uninsured women. Tonight supporters of women’s family planning and other health services will rally in Austin to push back against the right’s backward agenda.

Cecile Richards, who founded the Texas Freedom Network and now leads the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, will speak at the rally in front of the Texas Capitol at 11th and Congress. The rally is from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Click here for more information about the rally, which is part of a Planned Parenthood bus tour with stops in 16 Texas cities across the state.

It’s stunning that we’re still having to fight for basic family planning information and access to contraception for women in the 21st century. Abstinence-only extremists, for example, still insist that public schools keep teens ignorant about responsible pregnancy and STD prevention. Now state and federal lawmakers want to use government to impose their personal religious beliefs about contraception on women of all ages. In fact, one Texas legislator last year openly acknowledged that he and his colleagues are engaged in an all-out “war on birth control.” Now we know that he wasn’t exaggerating.

In addition to attending tonight’s rally in Austin, you can support responsible, evidence-based sex education by signing the Education Works petition here. TFN can also give you the tools and support you need to change sex education policies in your local community by joining a School Health Advisory Council.

The Bible and Climate Change

March 12, 2012 by

One of the most vocal and cynical deniers of climate change science, U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., says the Bible backs up him up:

“Well actually the Genesis 8:22 that I use in there is that ‘as long as the earth remains there will be seed time and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, day and night,’ my point is, God’s still up there. The arrogance of people to think that we, human beings, would be able to change what He is doing in the climate is to me outrageous.”

Hat tip: Right Wing Watch

‘The Lord Is Not on Trial Here Today’

March 12, 2012 by

On Saturday our Houston friends from Americans United for Separation of Church and State are screening an award-winning documentary about a landmark First Amendment case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1948. The Lord is Not on Trial Here Today tells the compelling personal story of the late Vashti McCollum and how her efforts to protect her 10-year-old son led to one of the nation’s most important court cases protecting separation of church and state in public schools.

Jim McCollum will be a special guest at the screening of the Peabody and Emmy Award-winning documentary. The event is at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 17, at the Rice Media Center. The media center is on the south side of the Rice University campus in Houston. Admission is free.

The Boniuk Center for the Study of Religious Tolerance at Rice University and Rice Cinema are co-sponsoring the screening.

Click here for a flier with more information on the Houston event. You can read more about the documentary itself here.

The Week in Quotes (March 4 -10)

March 11, 2012 by

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

Read the rest of this entry »

Dewhurst Taking a Page from Perry Playbook

March 8, 2012 by

Does David Dewhurst see electoral gold in politicizing Texas churches? The Texas lieutenant governor is seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat Kay Bailey Hutchison is leaving after this year. On March 23 he will attend “a private briefing” with conservative pastors at a megachurch in south Houston. The right-wing Houston Area Pastor Council (HAPC) is promoting the event.

From the event’s website:

Join pastors and community leaders for this timely opportunity to have a private briefing on critical issues facing state and nation, and also have personal interaction with Lt. Gov. Dewhurst. We will introduce other elected officials and candidates in attendance. Included in the program will be critical Primary and General election information.

This “private briefing” is a page right out of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s political playbook. Gov. Perry has made courting the support of conservative pastors a key part of building his electoral base over the years. In fact, the governor spoke before thousands of pastors and their spouses at six “Pastors Policy Briefings” sponsored by the Texas Restoration Project in 2005 and at others since then. All of the events have been closed to news reporters (except for a crew from the Christian News Network at one). But Restoration Project organizers made it clear that they wanted pastors to use their positions and their churches to push a political agenda (an agenda Gov. Perry promoted in his speeches to those pastors).

The March 23 “briefing” doesn’t appear to be a Restoration Project event, but that seems to be a distinction without much difference. Will reporters be allowed into Lt. Gov. Dewhurst’s “private briefing” with pastors? We’ll see. But this isn’t a courtesy call by Dewhurst — it’s an effort by yet another politician to drag churches into partisan politics.

We also note that the event will be held at Grace Community Church. The pastor at Grace is Steve Riggle, who last month publicly released a letter demanding that Houston Mayor Annise Parker resign or stop exercising her First Amendment right to speak out in support of same-sex marriage. Texas Restoration Project events for Gov. Perry also featured numerous anti-gay speakers as well as incendiary rhetoric. One speaker, for example, suggested that God sent Hurricane Katrina to destroy New Orleans and was prepared to incinerate America because of tolerance for gay people.

David Bradley Rejects ‘Local Control’

March 7, 2012 by

The Texas Republican Party has long trumpeted a defense of “local control” for communities and school districts against what it sees as the abusive authority of federal and state government. In fact, the state party’s official platform makes it explicit, particularly when it comes to public education:

We support school choice and believe that quality education is best achieved by encouraging parental involvement, protecting parental rights, and maximizing local independent school district control. District superintendents and their employees should be made solely accountable to their locally elected boards. We support sensible consolidation of local school districts. We encourage local ISDs to consider carefully the advantages and disadvantages of accepting federal education money.

But State Board of Education member David Bradley, R-Beaumont Buna, a ringleader of the board’s far-right faction, thinks local communities don’t know how to run their own school districts. Here’s what he had to say at a candidate forum on Monday:

“Everyone likes to say ‘local control,’ but left unchecked, sometimes people don’t always do the best jobs.”

Bradley has served on the state board since the 1990s and is seeking re-election this year. He certainly hasn’t been shy over the years about criticizing the federal government for supposedly meddling in local decisions about education. But he seems all in favor of a top-down approach when it comes to the relationship between the state board on which he sits and local school boards. Apparently, Bradley thinks local folks are fools who just can’t be trusted to know what’s best for their own kids.

TFN’s SBOE election watch page includes more information on candidates and districts in the 2012 elections.

Another SBOE Candidate Stands Up to Experts!

March 6, 2012 by

At least one candidate for the Texas State Board of Education apparently agrees with former board chairman Don McLeroy’s infamous demand that “somebody’s gotta stand up to experts!”

An email — apparently from the Collin County Conservative Republicans PAC — includes a questionnaire and answers from state board candidate Gail Spurlock, R-Richardson. One of the questions:

Do you think that our current textbooks are based upon facts? Are they politically unbiased? Comment, please.

In her answer, Spurlock expresses concerns that Texas hasn’t yet adopted new social studies textbooks based on curriculum standards the state board approved in 2010:

“Most of the ‘old’ Social Studies textbooks were written by college professors, and it is well known that the largest percentage (90+) of these professors are liberal Democrats. It has been my general observation that Democrats impose politics on everything. This is one of the reasons for all of the work that was recently done by the SBOE and by the many volunteers who were involved in the public hearings to improve curricula.”

Is Spurlock suggesting that the state board reject textbooks written by college professors? Who in the world does she think should write them? Amateurs and political propagandists like David Barton? Politicians on the state board?

And Spurlock’s claim that “Democrats impose politics on everything” is laughable considering the state board’s heavily politicized rewrite of the social studies standards two years ago. The conservative Thomas B. Fordham Institute has called the board’s new American history standards a “politicized distortion of history” with “misrepresentations at every turn.” In the introduction to its report about those standards, Fordham explained that the right-wing majority on the state board “displayed overt hostility and contempt for historians and scholars, whom they derided as insidious activists for a liberal academic establishment.”

Apparently, Spurlock’s contempt for expertise would help her fit right in.

Read more about the candidates and state board districts on our SBOE election watch page here.