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by TFN

Compared to two years ago, it appears that voucher sugardaddy James Leininger has pulled back a bit (so far) in his donations to candidates for state office. Leininger is the state’s biggest financial supporter of private school voucher schemes. (You can read more about Leininger in a 2006 Texas Freedom Network Education Fund report on the religious right in Texas.) Vouchers take money from public schools to pay for tuition at private and religious schools. Over the years Leininger has poured millions of dollars into the campaigns of pro-voucher Republicans, including current Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Leininger has funneled a lot of that money through political action committees. That strategy can give him and his hired hands more control over the campaigns of candidates he supports. So far in 2007-08 election cycle, however, Leininger has given only about $815,000 to Republican candidates and PACs, according to reports available on the Texas Ethics Commission Web site. That compares to nearly $4 million Leininger had donated by this point in the 2005-06 cycle. More than $2.35 million of that money two years ago went to the Texas Republican Legislative Campaign Committee, a PAC that targeted five House incumbents for defeat in the Republican primaries because they opposed private school vouchers. Another $620,000 went to The Future of Texas Alliance PAC, which backed House Republican incumbents who supported vouchers. Read More

by TFN

We’ve been writing a lot about the Bible course guidelines recently adopted by the State Board of Education. But another pressing matter before the board — and one that we should be equally worried about — is what Texas students will learn about evolution in their science classes.

Creationists have long tried to include creationism or its pseudo-scientific variant “intelligent design” in science textbooks. But federal courts, most recently in Kitzmiller v. Dover, have ruled that doing so violates the First Amendment’s prohibition against government promotion of religion. Creationists, such as Texas State Board of Education chairman Dr. Don McLeroy, R-College Station, are now putting their efforts behind requiring that students learn about the so-called “weaknesses” of evolution. Never mind, of course, that scientists have repeatedly debunked those fabricated “weaknesses.” Click here to read a Texas Freedom Network Education Fund report on the state board and how the controversy over teaching evolution has developed over time.

The Austin Chronicle today — in its science fiction issue, no less — includes an informative story… Read More

by TFN

The State Board of Education’s decision last week to adopt vague, very general guidelines for Texas public school Bible classes is sparking heated debate on the Web. Prominent science blogger Ed Brayton writes about far-right supporters of the state board’s irresponsible vote who are distorting the debate — and the facts.… Read More

Hope you aren’t tired of reading stories about Bibles in schools yet — there are likely many more to come. In today’s and yesterday’s TFN News Clips alone, we found six stories about public school Bible courses but only ran five and an editorial cartoon. And you can, as the Austin American-Statesman wrote in an editorial yesterday, “[E]xpect to see numerous state school districts in court — and paying hefty legal bills with taxpayers’ money — because their Bible courses promote Protestant Christianity over other religions.” And, with those lawsuits, expect to see many, many more news stories.

Aside from the editorial above, other stories we included in News Clips drove home the Statesman’s reasoning for why many schools could end up in court.

A news story from Waco noted that many Central Texas school districts do not plan to include Bible classes in their course offerings this year for a number of reasons: It’s too close to the start of the school year to rewrite course manuals, they’re finding it difficult to add another elective to their offerings and, most important, districts are confused and worried when it comes to designing the… Read More

With the general election just months away, religious-right groups are once again pushing statewide ballot measures that would bar same-sex marriage and even civil unions. California, where the state Supreme Court earlier this year opened marriage to same-sex couples, is one of the biggest battlegrounds in the nation.

In response to the far right’s renewed assault on gay and lesbian families, the Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing is relaunching its campaign to obtain thousands of clergy signatures on an Open Letter to Religious Leaders on Marriage Equality. Clergy can sign on to the letter here.

The Texas Freedom Network opposed a constitutional amendment, approved by voters in 2005, barring legal recognition of same-sex marriages and civil unions in Texas. The following year TFN supported successful efforts in Austin to repeal a charter measure that had barred access to city benefits for the domestic partners of city employees.… Read More

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