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.

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The Latest on Church & State

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… 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 byRead 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

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

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