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 continually work to impose their views on others, especially around 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)

Texas Monthly’s Burkablog is reporting that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, has given up trying to include a ban on public funding for embryonic stem cell research in the state budget. Patricia Kilday Hart writes that Ogden announced this morning that a House-Senate conference committee “couldn’t come to a consensus” on whether to include the ban. So it’s out.

This is a huge victory for supporters of responsible medical research that gives hope to families struggling with debilitating medical conditions like Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, spinal cord injuries and cancer. Last month we called on supporters of stem cell research to call their House representatives and help keep Ogden’s ban out of the House’s version of the state budget. And you came through! The House refused to include the ban, and House negotiators on the conference committee also stood firm against it.

Ogden’s ban would have been a disaster for responsible and promising medical research. Although the state currently does not fund embryonic stem cell research, Ogden’s ban would have threatened even privately funded research at publicly funded facilities. Moreover, it would have discouraged medical researchers from coming to Texas and encouraged those already here… Read More

The Internal Revenue Service has ruled against a complaint filed by the Texas Freedom Network asking whether a tax-exempt, nonprofit foundation improperly sought to mobilize conservative pastors for partisan electoral purposes beginning in 2005. In January 2008 we asked the IRS to investigate whether the Houston-based Niemoller Foundation improperly engaged in partisan political activity on behalf of Texas Gov. Rick Perry's re-election in 2006. You can read our press release at the time here and supporting documents here. The focus of the complaint was Niemoller's funding of six "Pastors' Policy Briefings"in 2005 (and a seventh to celebrate the governor's inauguration in January 2007) hosted by an entity called the Texas Restoration Project. (You can read about the Texas Restoration Project in a TFN Education Fund report here, pages 13-16. ) We also asked whether Niemoller had improperly helped distribute political propaganda in support of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, a measure Texas voters approved in 2005. Read More

The religious right in recent years has repeatedly argued that embryonic stem cell research isn’t sound science and has been a waste of time and money. Last week, for example, the Family Research Council once again argued that embryonic stem cell research “has not successfully treated a single person for any disease.” In testimony before Congress less than two years ago, David Barton of the Texas-based group WallBuilders also argued that such research hadn’t led to any cures. Just last month the Christian Coalition of America claimed that there have been “zero successes in human embryonic stem cell research.” Of course, politicians and far-right pressure groups in this country have put numerous obstacles in the way of this promising medical research.

Now comes important news from Britain:

British scientists have developed the world’s first stem cell therapy to cure the most common cause of blindness. Surgeons predict it will become a routine, one-hour procedure that will be generally available in six or seven years’ time. The treatment involves replacing a layer of degenerated cells with new ones created from embryonic stem cells.

This development offers new hope to millions of people who suffer from… Read More

The Texas House of Representatives today is taking up the state’s budget bill. Yesterday the Texas Freedom Network sent out the following Action Alert:

Upcoming House Budget Debate Will Include Critical Votes on Stem Cell Research and Vouchers

Two crucially important issues will be debated when the Texas House of Representatives takes up the state budget (SB 1) starting this Friday. Lawmakers need to hear from Texans like you encouraging them to do the right thing — and letting them know we are watching their vote on these issues. These could be the most important votes on these issues this session.

Please take a moment to call your own state representative, and ask her or him to:

– NO on all amendments to SB 1 that would ban funding for stem cell research in Texas.

– OPPOSE VOUCHERS by voting YES on any amendment that would prohibit the use of any state funds to pay private school tuition.

(Click here to find contact information for your representative.)

And after you call, contact Val or Judie in our Outreach Office to let them know how your representative responded. This information is extremely helpful as… Read More

A Republican Congress instituted the first federally funded private school voucher program, the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, in the District of Columbia in 2004. The program was a political victory for far-right groups and individuals such as voucher sugardaddy James Leininger of Texas. But it looked likely to fade out of existence due to the efforts of the current Democratic-controlled Congress.

Yet U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings is doing her darndest to keep it alive.

See Secretary Spellings’ column appearing in yesterday’s Washington Post:

Signed into law by President Bush four years ago, the program is the first to provide federally funded education vouchers to students. It awards up to $7,500 per child for tuition, transportation and fees; in 2007-08 it enabled 1,900 students from the underperforming Washington public school system — the highest total yet — to attend the private or religious schools of their choice.

Now, let’s look at what Spellings has to say in favor of the program.

First she says that parents like the voucher program, but that’s a non-starter. There are also families who are like their neighborhood public schools. The issue is whether it is wise public policy to divert to… Read More

lisa o'carroll

BREAKING: Irish Times exit poll projects Ireland has voted by landslide to repeal Eighth Amendment irishtimes.com/news/…

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