Religious Freedom

The Texas Freedom Network supports the constitutional guarantee of the separation of church and state, which protects the right of all Americans to practice the faith of their choice, or none at all, free of government interference.

Unfortunately, efforts to knock down that wall are a constant in Texas. Politicians and activists have attempted to impose their views on others on issues like abortion and access to contraception. And in a distortion of the principle of religious freedom, far-right groups have supported legislative efforts to allow individuals to use religion as an excuse to ignore laws they might not like and even as a weapon to discriminate against others.

Resources

Prayer in Public Schools: A Primer (2001 report)

The Texas Faith-Based Initiative (2002 report)NDOP_Report_2005_Revised

A Report on The National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (2005 report)

Reading, Writing & Religion: Teaching the Bible in Texas Public Schools (2006 report)

Reading, Writing & Religion II (2013 report)

Can This Class Be Saved? The ‘Hobby Lobby’ Public School Bible Curriculum (2014 report)

Robert Jeffress, the far-right Dallas pastor who thinks President Obama is paving the way for the Antichrist, is troubled that the president visited a Baltimore mosque this week to express his opposition to bigotry and discrimination targeting Muslim Americans. After Jeffress spoke on Fox News today, the network tweeted some of his comments, including: .@robertjeffress: Pres. Obama is “operating in his favorite role… and that is defender-in-chief of Islam.” pic.twitter.com/lMCVluPIvb — Fox News (@FoxNews) February 5, 2016 Pres. Obama is “operating in his favorite role… and that is defender-in-chief of Islam.” Jeffress is so proud of his contempt for religious freedom, the president and Muslim Americans that he retweeted the Fox News post about his comments. Read More

Religious-right activists have been chipping away at the wall separating church and state for decades. Now we hear elected officials who are just as shameful in their attacks on this fundamental protection for religious freedom in America. Indeed, their own words reveal a depth of support for religious freedom that’s almost paper thin. Here’s what we heard from the right on this issue in 2015. (Click here for previous posts on what we heard from the right in 2015.) “We declare this state to be the sovereign territory of Jesus Christ.” – A pastor at speaking at the religious right’s Texas Faith and Family Day during the legislative session in Austin. “[R]esolve to withstand the onslaught of moral evil and the overreach of federal judges who ignore the will of the people of our great state.” – John Greene, pastor of Lufkin Harmony Hill Baptist Church, offering a prayer to open a daily session of the Texas House of Representatives in February. Politicized prayers like this one led some House members to insist that those asked to pray at the beginning of each day’s session respect the diverse religious and political beliefs of the members (and of Texans generally). Read More

With the holidays upon us, religious righters and the politicians who pander to them are looking for any excuse to scream about a mythical “war on Christmas” and dream up new “threats” to religious freedom. The latest example comes to us from the city of Orange in Southeast Texas. Orange city officials have decided to remove a Christmas nativity scene from city hall because an organization called Orange County Atheists wanted also to post a banner nearby. The atheists’ banner doesn’t attack Christmas or religion at all. It doesn’t even object to the nativity scene. The banner (below) simply extends good wishes to people who celebrate other holidays (including Christmas) this time of year: But some folks in Orange are offended that a public building would (gasp) recognize the holidays of various faiths and traditions along with Christmas. Here’s what a city spokesperson said in announcing the rejection of the request to post the banner: Based on this request, the City reviewed current case law. Supreme Court decisions have tried to address this question in an array of decisions, but there is not a clear case that gives affirmative direction to displaying the Nativity scene. This makes it difficult to … Read More

By Rabbi Neal Katz As a rabbi, my faith is supremely important in my life. That’s why it’s painful for me to see religion used as a tool to harm or discriminate. But it happens. And sadly here in Texas, some of our state leaders are even encouraging this misuse of religion. Today, I’m happy to tell you about a new initiative TFN and the ACLU of Texas are launching to identify and address these issues. We have created a website to collect the stories of religious discrimination in our state to better understand the scope of this problem. All information on the website will remain private. If a government official or private business in Texas has used religion to discriminate against you or someone you know, we want to hear your story. Nobody should ever be turned away from a business or government office, refused service or evicted from their home simply because they don’t share another person’s religious beliefs or because of who they are or whom they love. That discrimination distorts the real meaning of religious liberty. If you agree, help us get the word out about this important initiative by … Read More

We just sent out this press release with our partners at the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas: Two leading civil and religious liberties organizations in Texas are warning against efforts by elected officials to misuse religion to defend discrimination in the state. The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas and the Texas Freedom Network announced today an effort to track instances of religious refusals by government officials and businesses. Individuals can report such instances at www.texansequalunderlaw.com/story. Efforts to carve out special religious exemptions to state and local laws designed to protect the common good – especially nondiscrimination measures – distort the true meaning of religious liberty and put all Texans at risk, said Rebecca Marques, policy and advocacy strategist for the ACLU of Texas. “Religious freedom is one of our fundamental rights as Americans,” Marques said. “That’s why we protect it in our Constitution. But religious freedom doesn’t give anyone the right to refuse to obey laws that everyone else must obey or to discriminate against or harm others.” Earlier this month Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick asked state senators to recommend allowing government officials and employees, other individuals and businesses … Read More

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