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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Texas state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, thinks he’s somehow qualified to tell local school districts and teachers what instructional materials they can use in their classrooms, but he doesn’t have a very good understanding of the basics of American constitutional freedoms. Speaking at the Mims Baptist Church in Conroe this past weekend, the Houston Press reports, Patrick informed congregants:

“There is no separation of church and state. It was not in the constitution.”

That declaration is unlikely to persuade a U.S. Supreme Court that has issued numerous rulings upholding separation of church and state under the U.S. Constitution over the span of many decades. Moreover, 68 percent of likely Texas voters responding to a poll conducted for the TFN Education Fund in May 2010 agreed that “separation of church and state is a key principle of our Constitution.”

Of course, it’s hardly surprising that Sen. Patrick would say such a thing. He has already announced his campaign for lieutenant governor, and pandering to religious-right voters who also oppose separation of church and state seems like a natural strategy for him.… Read More

Peggy Venable, head of the Texas chapter of the right-wing group Americans for Prosperity, doesn’t seem to understand the concept of religious freedom very well. Here’s what she tweeted about state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, as the Texas House began what is always a long day at the end of a legislative session:

Not all Texans share the same religious beliefs, of course. Nor does religious faith require (nor necessarily benefit) from the favor of government. So we see nothing disappointing about giving legislators the opportunity to pray or reflect individually, in their own ways, on the important day before them. Rep. Howard simply demonstrated real respect for religious freedom for all.

We are also proud to say that Rep. Howard served for a number of years on the Texas Freedom Network’s Board of Directors.… Read More

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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

Just Texas

To all who celebrate, we wish a very happy and sweet new year this Rosh Hashanah! We are incredibly grateful for the passionate Jewish leaders in our community working towards reproductive freedom, LGBTQ inclusion, and the empowerment of women. pic.twitter.com/jCcZ…