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

Hobby Lobby President Steve Green and the nonprofit he created, Museum of the Bible, insist that respected scholars helped create their new Bible curriculum. But Mark Chancey, a biblical scholar at SMU in Dallas, questions how that could be true. Chancey found numerous errors and bizarre passages in his review of the curriculum for the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund.

Here is just one example Chancey notes in his review of The Book: The Bible’s History, Narrative and Impact:… Read More

Yesterday the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund released our latest report, Can This Class Be Saved? Authored by Southern Methodist University religious studies professor Mark Chancey, the report looks at a new public school Bible curriculum created with backing from Hobby Lobby President Steve Green.

Green, as you’ll recall, has been in the news a lot lately because of his company’s Supreme Court challenge, on religious liberty grounds, to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers include coverage for birth control in employee health insurance plans.

The Bible curriculum, which Green hopes will be used all over the country, will get its first test run in public schools in Mustang, Oklahoma, this coming school year. Green maintains his aim is to develop a Bible curriculum that’s constitutionally permissible in public schools. For that to be true, as we have explained in our previous reports on public school Bible courses, Green’s course would have to be taught in an academic, non-devotional manner that refrains from promoting or disparaging religion or promoting one particular faith perspective over all others.

So is that the case with the Green-sponsored Bible curriculum? Chancey’s report raises some serious concerns, and Green’s own comments suggest the… Read More

Hobby Lobby’s president Steve Green has sponsored the development of a new Bible curriculum, The Book: The Bible’s History, Narrative and Impact, that he reportedly hopes thousands of public schools will adopt. The curriculum will be published by Museum of the Bible, a nonprofit organization created by Green to guide the development of a museum that will house his extensive personal collection of Bible-related manuscripts and artifacts. In mid-April the school board of Mustang, located six miles from Hobby Lobby’s Oklahoma City corporate headquarters, announced that it would teach a pilot version of the course beginning in the fall of 2014.

Today, a new TFN Education Fund report authored by Mark Chancey, a professor of religious studies at Southern Methodist University, finds that the curriculum’s combination of a religious purpose, pervading sectarian bias and frequent factual errors demonstrates that this curriculum has a long way to go before being appropriate for a public school classroom.

We just sent the following press release.

The first independent review by a biblical scholar raises serious concerns about a new curriculum that promoters – particularly Hobby Lobby President Steve Green – hope will combat what they see as ignorance about… Read More

What happens when public schools cross the line by promoting personal religious views in their classrooms? One Texas parent -- a religious studies scholar -- explains what happened to her family in this cross-post (with permission) from Scribalishess. Susan M. Pigott is a professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at a small, liberal arts university in west Texas. She's married and has two amazing kids. Her family also includes five cats and two dogs, and her favorite hobbies are writing, photography, and geeky tech gadgets. The views expressed in this post are her own. *** I remember driving to Chili’s with my hands clenched on the steering wheel, knuckles turning white. It wasn’t the Abilene traffic (though I could write a blog post about Abilene drivers . . .) No. It was the story that was slowly, painfully unfolding as my son spoke. I was gently (I think) nudging him to reveal more and more about his day in fifth grade at a public elementary school. I was so angry by the time we reached Chili’s that it’s a wonder we didn’t get kicked out of the restaurant. We were heading to Chili’s to meet my husband for dinner. My son’s story began with a shrug and a quiet sentence, “Mr. X said that vegetarianism is wrong.” “What?” I asked–a bit too stridently. My boy at first hesitated to say more. “No, tell me. What did he say?” I asked, a little more gently. “Well,” my son said, “We were reading this book for class. And in the book, this boy has to live in the wilderness for a long time just eating what he could find. And at some point the boy says he really misses hamburgers.” “Okay,” I said. “Well, then Mr. X got out his Bible and told us that the Bible says vegetarianism is wrong. He started quoting a bunch of verses about meat and how you shouldn’t feel guilty about eating it and how vegetarians are less healthy than other people.” “What?” I sort of shrieked. This was when my knuckles turned white. You see, my kids and I are vegetarians. We have been for years. And here was a teacher, a person my son looked up to, telling the class that vegetarianism is wrong. That it’s against the Bible. That it’s unhealthy. I was beyond furious. I explained to my son that Mr. X was using the Bible incorrectly. That those verses he was quoting weren’t about vegetarianism at all, but about meat sacrificed to idols. But I could tell he was deeply hurt by what his teacher had said. By that time we were at Chili’s (yes, you can get vegetarian meals at Chili’s, in case you’re worried about hypocrisy). I was boiling. We sat at our booth, and I asked my son to tell Daddy what he had told me, because I was so livid I couldn’t see straight. My son told his story. Then he added, “Oh. And he also told us we didn’t come from monkeys and he quoted Genesis 1.” That was it. I was ready to hunt down Mr. X and teach him a thing or two about the Bible. You don’t mess with a Bible professor’s kid, teaching him crap theology in a public school classroom. Mr. X had no business saying what he said. I could barely stay in the booth. Read More

We told you Monday that a religious-right group’s voter guide reveals that several Republican candidates in Texas State Board of Education elections this year think government shouldn’t be responsible for making sure all children get an education. The same candidates also support shifting tax dollars from public to private schools. So it might not be surprising to hear that their hostility to public education is matched by their disdain for science and separation of church and state.

According to answers in the voter guide, District 7 incumbent David Bradley, R-Beaumont Buna, and Fort Worth challengers Eric Mahroum and Lady Theresa Thombs in the District 11 Republican primary all support teaching “intelligent design”/creationism in public schools. They also want biology textbooks to teach creationist arguments about so-called “weaknesses” of evolution. District 11 incumbent Pat Hardy, R-Fort Worth, indicated that she opposes teaching both “intelligent design” and those discredited “weaknesses” arguments.

All of those candidates, including Hardy, say the Ten Commandments should be displayed in public school buildings, that marriage is a union of one man and one woman and that “no government has the authority to alter this definition.”) They also “strongly agree” that “the more people live by… Read More

Chuck Lindell

Texas House gives final approval to SB 1978, known as the Chick-fil-A bill, on 79-64 vote. It returns to Senate to consider amendment that struck a section giving the AG power to sue to enforce the bill. #txlege Background: statesman.com/news/2…