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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Tea party activists like to argue that they simply want a small government that doesn’t intrude on the freedoms of Americans. But that’s hard to do believe when you see tea party and religious-right activists marching together with locked arms.

Consider, for example, Rick Scarborough, head of the religious-right group Vision America, which is based in the East Texas town of Lufkin. Scarborough has worked to tie the tea party and religious-right movements together. In fact, he created Tea Party Unity, a project of Vision America, “to provide services and recognition to Tea Parties across the nation, and to help build a tsunami of grassroots activism that will restore our nation to her Judeo-Christian heritage.”

Today’s Tea Party Unity e-newsletter promotes an essay by Lee Duigon, a contributing editor for the Chalcedon Foundation. Chalcedon, founded in 1965 by the late Rousas John Rushdoony, promotes Christian Reconstructionism. That radical movement advocates for a theocratic government and a society based on libertarian economics. Mother Jones has described the movement as “an obscure but increasingly potent theology whose top exponents hold that Christian crusaders must conquer and convert the world, by the sword if… Read More

The chief organizer of so-called "pastor policy briefings" in support of Texas Gov. Rick Perry's re-election bid in 2005 is now calling on Congress to enact legislation "reestablishing the Bible in public schools." In an email to recipients on his American Renewal Project list today, David Lane calls for congressional legislation reversing the U.S. Supreme Court's 1963 ruling against state-sponsored prayer and devotional Bible study in public schools. That "foolish" ruling, he writes, "gave control of education to the secularists, who have imposed their values, their views, their politics, and their laws on America's Christian heritage and Christian culture." Lane served as the executive director of the Texas Restoration Project in 2005. His organization, funded with $1.3 million in donations from major Perry campaign donors, hosted six "pastor policy briefings" in Austin, Houston, Dallas and San Antonio that year. Thousands of pastors and their spouses got free hotel lodging and meals so they could hear Gov. Perry and his political appointees and supporters give speeches in the run-up to Perry's 2006 re-election campaign. The not-so-subtle message to pastors was to return home and essentially turn their congregations into parts of the governor's re-election campaign. They were also encouraged to support a state constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in Texas. Voters approved that amendment in the fall of 2005. Lane has organized similar pastor gatherings in presidential election battleground states around the country, with each of the gatherings featuring speeches by selected Republican politicians like former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Pseudo-historian David Barton, head of the Texas-based organization WallBuilders, and other religious-right leaders have also spoken at those events. The umbrella organization American Renewal Project, which Lane runs, has been facilitating the events. All of those events, including Gov. Perry's 2011 prayer extravaganza at Reliant Stadium in Houston that Lane helped organize, have contributed to a massive list of pastor email addresses from around the country. Lane's periodic messages to the pastors on that list promote a militant vision of a Christian America -- a narrow and deeply politicized vision not shared by many mainstream Christians, other people of faith and, of course, nonbelievers. In his email today, Lane promotes public school Bible study as a way to reverse what he sees as America's decline since the Supreme Court's 1963 ruling (emphasis in original): The false gods of multiculturalism, political correctness and secularism have produced: red ink as far as the eye can see, homosexuals praying at the Inauguration, 60M babies killed in the womb, the U.S. Supreme Court imposing homosexual marriage on America...judgment is on us; and like Israel, "The sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth. Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, so that He sold them into the hands of Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia; and the sons of Israel served Cushan-rishathaim eight years....". Judges 3:7-8 You see this, right? The "adversary" of a Christian nation disconnected the Bible and prayer -- the tie-in to God -- from public education and America's children in 1963. Reestablishing the Bible in public schools is a first step toward regaining our Christian heritage and restoring a Christian culture. God will defend himself. Lane then asks for help in finding "10 Congressmen who will sponsor a bill that calls for the return of the Bible, as a component to the curriculum, in public schools." This isn't a call for an academic study of the Bible's influence in history and literature, which the courts have said is constitutionally permissible in public schools. Lane's purpose clearly is evangelical and political in nature: America  -- having exalted and deified the false gods of multiculturalism, political correctness and secularism -- is ripe for the taking. A pagan prostitute with an ounce of faith believed God and it was accounted to her for righteousness. Rahab surrounded by a "hostile and intimidating environment", a perverse worldview imposed by a secular society, could see nothing with her eyes which would indicate the fall...she stood for the unseen against the seen, "Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God." Will a Gideon or Rahab the Harlot please stand. Texas, of course, already has plenty of experience with Bible courses that turn public school classrooms into Sunday school classrooms. Lane wants to see Congress essentially mandate the same experience in schools across the country. Lane's full email is after the jump. Read More

In what must thrill the hearts of zealots like David Barton who have spent their careers trying to drag houses of worship into partisan politics, the Washington Post reports:

Even as polls show Americans broadly oppose electioneering from the pulpit, a new report by a group of faith leaders working closely with Capitol Hill argues for ending the decades-old ban on explicit clergy endorsements.

The report being given Wednesday to Sen. Charles E. Grassley — the Iowa Republican whose office for years has been probing potential abuses by tax-exempt groups — comes as the ban has become a culture-war flashpoint.

The religious right has been trying to politicize congregations for decades now. The campaign to turn pulpits into campaign props will likely gather speed.

Even so, we’re encouraged by an opposition report from other faith leaders. According to the same Washington Post article, that report explains that the ban on electioneering “has served to protect houses of worship in America from government regulation and from divisive partisan politics dividing the church communities.”

The religious right might be willing to risk throwing out those protections, but most Americans are not.… Read More

TFN Insider is pleased to present this guest post from Rev. Beth Ellen Cooper of Northwoods Unitarian Universalist Church in The Woodlands north of Houston. Rev. Cooper participated in TFN’s clergy gathering in March in support of women’s access to birth control and state funding for family planning. She blogs regularly for the Houston Chronicle at Keep the Faith. Rev. Cooper also posted on TFN Insider about her experience in being lectured on morality by legislative staffers at the Texas Capitol.

Last Thursday, I attended a meeting of the Montgomery County Texas Eagle Forum, which featured reports on the latest special sessions of the Texas Legislature from state representatives Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands; Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe; and Cecile Bell Jr., R-Magnolia. This forum of ultra-conservatives was a proverbial lion’s den for a religious progressive like myself. But I am firm believer that there is no progress without dialogue, and no dialogue is possible if you don’t show up to ask the questions.

Besides. They sent an invitation to my church. It seemed rude not to accept.

So I went, in clerical collar, prepared to… Read More

Following is even more proof that self-styled “historian” David Barton is little more than a propaganda artist: now he’s rewriting his own history. Yet Barton’s distorted versions of history are still getting traction on the political right, as Republican state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston demonstrated last week.

Let’s start with Barton.

The president of Texas-based WallBuilders, an organization dedicated to rewriting American history and rejecting separation of church and state, has faced a number of embarrassments lately. Last year a religious publisher halted publication of Barton’s book about Thomas Jefferson, citing factual errors throughout. That came just weeks after Christian conservative scholars panned Barton’s work. Earlier this year writer Chris Rodda discovered that Barton had used a Louis L’Amour novel as a source for historical claims about 1800s America. We also caught Barton spreading falsehoods, including his false claim last fall that President Obama had ignored “God” in his four Thanksgiving proclamations.

Now it looks like Barton is trying to paper over one of his biggest blunders: bogus quotations he has in the past attributed to some of America’s Founders and various other important figures in our nation’s… Read More

Texas Rising at UT

We know every political issue is intersectional, so today we're tabling on speedway talking an issue that affects EDUCATION REPRODUCTIVE JUSTICE AND LGBTQ+ EQUALITY We're talking about: pic.twitter.com/4Im7…