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)

Can David Barton really be serious? The head of Texas-based WallBuilders, which opposes separation of church and state, now says that Congress is violating the Constitution when its members meet on Sundays, the Christian Sabbath. Really. In an e-mail to WallBuilders activists, Barton is criticizing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for having senators work on health insurance reform legislation on Sunday. "Sunday sessions have been extremely rare because of the U. S. Constitution's Article I 'Sundays Excepted' Clause, which excludes Sunday from the federal lawmaking process. The Framers of the Constitution held great respect for the Christian Sabbath and therefore removed it from the federal lawmaking calendar." Ummm... no, David. Read More

In case you were wondering, it's legal to wish people a "Merry Christmas." Of course, no one really doubted that. But attorney Kelly Coghlan has decided to take the phony "War on Christmas" nonsense to even more absurd levels by letting people know that federal law officially calls December 25 "Christmas." Coghlan (www.christianattorney.com) is the Houston lawyer who wrote the so-called Religious Viewpoints Anti-Discrimination Act, which the Texas Legislature passed in 2007. The law requires that school events -- including required student assemblies -- be turned into public forums in which students may evangelize, if they choose, to fellow students and others in attendance. It's a thinly veiled end run around constitutional protections for religious freedom and has forced public school districts across the state to pay attorneys to help them craft policies in ways that don't get them sued. Now Coghlan has circulated an e-mail -- audience unclear, but presumably parents and perhaps school districts on his address list -- reminding them that Christmas is a legal holiday. Thanks for the news flash, Kelly. His purpose, of course, is to reinforce the misperception that Christmas is somehow under attack in America. Never mind that the vast majority of Americans celebrate the birth of Jesus with public prayer, decorations and festivities every year. And Americans have been wishing each other "Merry Christmas" since our nation's founding without having to be reminded that it's a federal holiday. Even more ironic is that social conservatives like Coghlan are now turning to government as a justification for wishing people "Merry Christmas." He even reminds readers that no one goes around wishing "Happy Holidays" before other federal holidays like Labor Day. It's as if folks like Coghlan have no idea how absurd they sound. And perhaps they don't. In any case, they have become a caricature of prim-and-proper busybodies constantly pointing out the obvious to everybody else. Read Coghlan's e-mail for yourself: Read More

Two years ago, the state of Texas passed a law encouraging — but NOT mandating — elective Bible courses in public schools. (TFN and other religious and civil liberties groups worked very hard to make sure this new law included a few common-sense safeguards that would prevent teachers from turning such courses into Sunday school classes that favored one interpretation of the Bible over others. A 2006 TFN Education Fund report authored by Dr. Mark Chancey of SMU revealed that existing public school Bible courses were rife with such problems.)

Predictably, the pious lawmakers who were so anxious to introduce the Bible into the classroom quickly declared “mission accomplished” when the bill passed and left school districts and teachers with the difficult task of figuring out how to implement these courses. Worse, the Texas Legislature failed to appropriate any money for teacher training (though the law specifies that such training is a prerequisite to offering Bible courses), and the State Board of Education neglected to provide any curriculum guidelines for teachers who wish to construct an appropriate course (again, though the law specifies that such curriculum standards be adopted).

The new law went into… Read More

MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann last night named the Texas State Board of Education the day’s “Worst Person in the World” for requiring that Texas public schools teach about the Bible. Check out a video clip here. (The clip begins with a commercial and two runners-up to the “Worst Person in the World.”)

In truth, it’s a bit more complicated that Olbermann suggests. First, the law on Bible classes is a product of the Texas Legislature in 2007, not a requirement of the State Board of Education. The Texas Freedom Network succeeded in getting the legislation amended so that public schools would not be required to offer separate courses about the Bible. The Texas attorney general has said, however, that the law requires public high schools to provide instruction about the Bible’s influence in history and literature somewhere in the curriculum.

TFN also succeeded in getting various safeguards for religious freedom in the bill. Those safeguards, if obeyed, would keep instruction about the Bible from turning into opportunities to evangelize in public schools.

Still, the State Board of Education deserves a heap of criticism. One of the law’s key safeguards for religious freedom is a requirement… Read More

Texas isn’t the only state witnessing a campaign to baptize (and rewrite) early American history. A group in Florida calling themselves No Separation has begun purchasing billboard space to spread their message that:

Our Founding Fathers knew that America’s government was made only for people who are moral and religious. It’s not suited for governing anyone else.

The billboards feature quotes from early American leaders that, taken out of context, would seem to denounce the separation of church and state. Only it turns out that this propaganda isn’t just misleading; it’s outright false! One of the quotes attributed to George Washington is completely fabricated. According to the billboard, Washington proclaimed,

“It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”

But Washington, of course, never said that. So the billboard sponsors acted quickly to correct their error. Well…not exactly. When confronted with this lie, a spokesperson for the group articulated a rather flexible view of historical accuracy:

“I don’t believe there’s a document in Washington’s handwriting that has those words in that specific form. However, if you look at Washington’s quotes, including his farewell address, about the place of religion in the political… Read More

Texas Freedom Network

.@pastors4txkids are incredible advocates for public schools. Definitely recommend a follow! twitter.com/pastors4…