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)

Right-wing politicians and pressure groups cynically claim that religious freedom is under attack in America. But in a column published today in the Austin American-Statesman, Texas Freedom Network President Kathy Miller writes that the real threat to religious liberty comes from those seeking to redefine what that freedom actually means. Kathy’s full column is below.

Recent court decisions extending marriage equality to same-sex couples in more states have led to another round of charges that religious freedom is under attack in America. These cynical claims couldn’t be more wrong.

If religious liberty in America is really threatened, the danger comes from efforts to redefine what that freedom actually means. We see this in debates over many issues.

Critics say the legalization of same-sex marriage threatens the religious freedom of those who oppose it. But clergy will continue to preside, and rightly so, only over weddings that align with their particular faith beliefs. On the other hand, many states still refuse to recognize same-sex weddings performed by clergy who find such unions compatible with their religious faith. What about their religious freedom?

Critics go further by complaining that religious owners of secular businesses – like bakers and facility operators – won’t be able to discriminate against… Read More

“It sounds crazy, because you ask, ‘where is the separation of church and state?’ You tell me. Where is separation of church and state? It’s not there. Somebody is determining the values of this culture and they are determining the values of those who hold public office, that are determining the future of your children, grandchildren and you. If the people in this position, as pastors and as Christian leaders, refuse to say anything, who is going to determine the perspective by which everybody lives, breathes and acts? The secularists, the humanists, the socialists. These are not empty words. This is what’s taking place.”

That’s a quote from Mark Keough, the Republican nominee for the the Texas House of Representatives seat in District 15 north of Houston. Keough, a former car salesman and currently senior pastor at The Woodlands Bible Church, made the statement in a talk to folks at his church last Sunday (October 19). He is unopposed in the November general election and will replace state Rep. Steve Toth, a Republican from The Woodlands who thinks teaching teens about birth control leads to pregnancy. Toth lost a bid for a state senate seat this year.

KeoughRead More

Religious-right activists celebrated when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year, in a 5-4 decision, that beginning governmental meetings with sectarian prayers doesn’t violate the Constitution’s Establishment Clause.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins declared: “The court has rejected the idea that as citizens we must check our faith at the entrance to the public square.”

Of course, citizens don’t have to “check their faith at the entrance to the public square.” Citizens have the right to practice their faith and to pray, or not, wherever they like. The issue is whether government may favor a particular religion (or religion generally) and whether offering sectarian prayers does that. The Supreme Court has now said such prayers are permissible.

Well, as you can see in the video clip above, last week an Agnostic Pagan Pantheist — David Suhor — decided to bring his particular beliefs into the regular meeting of the Escambia County Board of County Commissioners in Florida. But that didn’t go over too well with some of the Christians at the meeting. One commissioner walked out, offering this explanation:

“People may not realize it, but when we invite someone a minister to pray they are praying for the county… Read More

If you read this blog, you’re probably the kind of person that, for one reason or another, knows the name Barry Lynn. But in case you don’t, here’s a brief refresher.

For starters, it’s the Rev. Barry Lynn.

Rev. Lynn is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ. He’s an accomplished lecturer and has written books on matters of faith in public life. He’s also the recipient of the Medal of Freedom from the Roosevelt Institute for his work in protecting the freedom to worship.

The Rev. Lynn also supports the separation of church and state, which is why he’s been the executive director of our friends over at Americans United for Separation of Church and State since 1992.

So, naturally, during a House hearing on Tuesday, Rep. Louie “Terror Babies” Gohmert, R-Texas, had to make sure that Rev. Lynn had his Christian bona fides in order:

I’m curious, in your Christian beliefs, do you believe in sharing the good news that will keep people from going to hell, consistent with the Christian belief?

Here’s video of the exchange:

Read More

In an earlier Can This Class Be Saved? post we discussed a speech by Steve Green from April 2013 in which the president of Hobby Lobby discusses his Museum of the Bible public school Bible curriculum that has been approved for a trial run in Mustang, Oklahoma, and what Green’s comments say about his intentions in backing that curriculum’s creation.

Now, in this portion of the speech, Green makes a claim about the Bible that will cause many to scratch their head. In it, Green implies that the Bible is the primary source for all good, but he ignores ways in which the Bible has been misused.

Here’s what Southern Methodist University religious studies professor Mark Chancey, who authored the TFN Education Fund’s new report on the Steve Green-backed curriculum, had to say:

The curriculum implies that the Bible is the primary source for positive developments in Western culture, generally ignoring the ways in which the Bible has been used to justify various forms of oppression.

Green’s own comments to the National Bible Association again appear to have guided the curriculum’s direction: “In every area of our life, this book has impacted our world… Our job … is… Read More

Texas Freedom Network

@SIECUS @kmillertfn @TXCapTonight This campaign for medically accurate, comprehensive and inclusive #SexEducation will stretch into next year when the TX State Board of Education is scheduled to make a decision. Find the TFN and SEICUS recs and ways to get involved at: tfn.org/sex-ed #TeachTheTruth pic.twitter.com/eoMv…