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)

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson said this past weekend that he would oppose the election of a Muslim as American president because Islam (he believes) is in conflict with the the Constitution. But today we read that while Carson has a personal religious test for candidates seeking the presidency, he failed a similar religious test earlier this year.

Talking Points Memo reports that a Texas pastor was among critics who earlier this year strongly protested an invitation for Carson to speak at a Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference. Their concerns? They thought Carson’s personal religious beliefs are theologically suspect.

In particular, critics complained that Carson’s membership in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church was a problem. Bart Barber, a Southern Baptist pastor in Farmersville just northwest of Dallas, was one of the critics. Here’s part of what he wrote in a blog post last spring:

“Southern Baptists have classified Seventh-Day Adventists not as a church but as a sect. We have stopped short of anathematizing them, but we have identified aspects of their beliefs that are sub-Christian and harmful.”

Following those kinds of complaints, Carson was essentially disinvited from speaking at the event.

This isn’t the first time a Republican’s religious beliefs got him in trouble with religious-righters who make up the base… Read More

Religious-right activists and politicians like Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz have been scrambling over each other to proclaim their support for Kim Davis. But a new poll shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans oppose the Kentucky clerk’s refusal, on religious grounds, to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Released this morning, the ABC News/Washington Post poll includes a couple of key questions on religion and  marriage. The verdict: most Americans say one’s individual religious beliefs aren’t more important than equality under the law for all.

In general, when there’s a conflict between (someone’s religious beliefs) and (the need to treat everyone equally under the law), which do you think is more important?

Religious beliefs: 19% Equal under the law: 74% No opinion: 6%

As you may know, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that gay and lesbian couples have the right to marry. Nonetheless a county clerk in Kentucky has refused to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples, saying she objects on religious grounds. Do you think this county clerk should or should not be required to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples?

Required to issue: 63% Not required to issue: 33%… Read More

Did you know our nation is at war? No, not just the terrorism/Al Qaeda one. Americans — or Americans with the appropriate religious beliefs, at least — are also at war with the “pro-homosexual left” and the “enemies of religious freedom.” Or so says religious-right groups like Texas Values, the Austin-based state affiliate of Focus on the Family.

Check out the following excerpt from an email Texas Values sent to its supporters on Thursday (with the grammar and spelling errors as well as the overly dramatic bolded and italicized text in the original). Then ask yourself what message those supporters are supposed to take away from it:

America today is occupied territory. The enemies of religious freedom occupy every power center from government to academia. Everyone except its spiritual core. Thank God, that power isn’t centered in Washington. It flows from the faith and values of its people, from a thousand churches and faith-filled homes across Texas and beyond.

That makes our pastors the Leaders of the Resistancee.

How does an invading army break the will of an occupied people? First, it identifies its Resistance Leaders. Next, it isolates and demoralizes them, making them think they’re alone and powerless. Then it breaks them––before the people can… Read More

Religious-righters are twisting and redefining “religious liberty” so much that the term itself is in danger of becoming almost meaningless. Fortunately, a growing number of mainstream religious leaders from around the state are calling out the nonsense. The latest battleground: public subsidies (such as vouchers) for religious schools.

The rabidly anti-gay, religious-right group Houston Area Pastor Council, which also goes by the name Texas Pastor Council and U.S. Pastor Council, is leading the effort to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO). The group, led by one of Houston’s most vicious anti-gay activists, Dave Welch, claims that barring discrimination against people because of who they are or whom they love violates the religious freedom of people to, well, discriminate.

Then last week Welch’s group filed a brief with the Texas Supreme Court arguing that the failure of the state to provide taxpayer funding to faith-based schools is also a violation of religious freedom. The brief is for a major court long-running case on whether the way Texas funds its public schools violates the state Constitution. The Pastor Council argues, in part:

The total and complete exclusion of religious providers from the public education system severely implicates religious liberty, whereas their inclusion clearly does not violate religious liberty or the Establishment Clause per… Read More

That’s a tweet today from the Texas Senate Republican Caucus. Apparently, nothing says “protecting your religious freedom” better than saying it while promoting the symbol of the majority religious faith. Courageous, yes?… Read More

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