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)

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UPDATE, 10 a.m., May 7: Even more about how this incident didn’t involve religious discrimination. The governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and a long list of religious-right groups and activists owe UIL officials an apology.

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One of the fastest ways to whip up a political firestorm in Texas is to claim that government has violated someone’s religious freedom and then wildly exaggerate the story, even if you don’t know all the facts.

That appears to have been the case last week, when religious-right pressure groups and politicians claimed a Texas high school track athlete had been disqualified for pointing skyward after he ran the anchor leg for his victorious relay team. Under University Scholastic League rules that govern high school sports in Texas, athletes may not engage in excessive celebration, including raising their arms in victory.

One of the first news stories about the incident got the ball rolling with an article headlined: “‘Act of faith’ costs track team a win, trip to state championships.” From there, politics took over, with… Read More

Dan Flynn, R-Van

State Rep. Dan Flynn, R-Van, is of two (or three) minds when it comes to the role religion should play in American law and society.  Warning: Do not try to reconcile these statements, all of which were made over the last five months.

Flynn, on the urgent need to post the 10 commandments in public school classrooms (the subject of his own HB 51):

“Our country was founded on Judeo Christian principles. The Ten Commandments, one of the supreme doctrines of the Christian faith, naturally provided a type of moral compass for the men who created and founded the rule of law and government for America. From an historical standpoint, a proper understanding of the historical importance of these commandments is essential to the necessary education of our children.”

Translation: Christian doctrine is the basis of the American rule of law and government. We must teach it to our kids!

Flynn, on the need to protect Texas citizens from the apparently dire threat of Islamic Sharia law (the subject of his own HJR 43):

“A court of this state may not enforce, consider, or apply any… Read More

Why would religious-right groups like Texas Values, the Texas lobby arm of Plano-based Liberty Institute, want to help hate groups disrupt funerals for military servicemembers and the victims of tragedies like last week’s fertilizer plant explosion in West? Those groups are demanding that state lawmakers pass a constitutional amendmentHJR 110/SJR 4 — that could effectively gut legislative protections for such funerals.

In fact, the haters from Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas are planning to be in Waco today protesting at a memorial service for the victims of the West tragedy. Westboro — run by chief hater Fred Phelps — is infamous for its “God Hates Fags” signs and demonstrations at funerals for dead servicemembers and other people around the country. The group praises those deaths and tragedies like the West explosion as God’s punishment for an America that tolerates homosexuality.

But if the Westboro haters want to protest at any funerals in West, they won’t be able to get very close. In 2007, Texas lawmakers passed legislation by state Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, that protects mourners. HB 1093 barred protesters from demonstrating within 1,000 feet of a… Read More

Another anti-Sharia measure received a surprise hearing in the House State Affairs Committee on Wednesday, even though there was no advance notice for the hearing. HJR 43 is a constitutional amendment by Dan Flynn, R-Van, stating that a “court of this state may not enforce, consider, or apply any religious or cultural law.”

Strangely, the bill’s author never uttered the words “Sharia” or “Islamic law” when explaining his bill, offering only bland, empty platitudes about respect for Texas law and courts. Rep. Flynn also announced that he was working on a committee substitute that changed his proposal in ways he did not specify. But, adding to the odd presentation, he did not bring any new language to show the committee.

The proposal as filed shares all the flaws of the anti-Sharia bill (SB 1639) that was heard in the Senate a few weeks ago — and then some, since the language of this constitutional amendment is MUCH more broad. Unfortunately, since the committee provided no advance warning for the hearing, they did not hear the full range of opposition that mobilized against SB 1639  in the Senate Business &… Read More

On Wednesday the Texas House Higher Education Committee will consider legislation that could force Texas colleges and universities to allow student organizations to discriminate. House Bill 360 by state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, would withhold state funding from a public or private institution of higher education that requires religious and other student organizations to allow students to participate regardless of those students’ “beliefs or status, including race, gender, and sexual orientation.”

Rep. Krause says his bill is intended to protect the religious freedom of student organizations to exclude those who don’t share their beliefs. Yet his bill could force college campuses to allow — and even fund — student chapters for anti-gay hate groups and racist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan if they claim that their discriminatory practices are based on their religious beliefs.

Click here for more about HB 360. Then call members of the Higher Education Committee (click here for contact information) and urge them to oppose HB 360. Tell them:… Read More