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

This Friday we’ll be monitoring a state senate photo op committee hearing here in Austin on one of the longstanding pet causes for the far right: school vouchers.

Yes, vouchers are back. Again. After failing to pass voucher legislation at each legislative session since 1995, the far right seems poised to try, try again next year when they reconvene for the 83rd Texas Legislative Session.

We’ve said it many times before: All voucher schemes accomplish is to drain scarce taxpayer funds from public schools and funnel them to private and religiously affiliated schools. And, if you were paying attention during the 2011 Legislative session, public schools don’t have much more to give after lawmakers stripped school district budgets of roughly $4 billion.

But such concerns won’t stop the far right from giving it another shot. State Sen. Dan Patrick, who will act as chair at Friday’s Senate Committee on Education hearing, made his intentions quite clear in a Houston Chronicle story just a few weeks ago:

“To me, school choice is the photo ID bill of this session. Our base has wanted us to pass photo voter ID for years, and we did it. They’ve been wanting us… Read More

Social conservatives have long pointed to the constitutional bar on government-sponsored prayer in public schools as the source of many of society’s ills. Just last week, when a gunman opened fire in a crowded movie theater, some trotted out the “If only we had prayer in schools” argument as a solution for preventing such tragedies.

Texas state Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, however, has her own solution. In a post on her Facebook page Monday, she seems to accept the fact that government-sponsored prayer is not allowed in public schools — though students are free to pray in public schools as long as it’s not officially sanctioned by administrators — and she offers an alternative:

I say have a reading out of Proverbs each day in our classrooms.

No, really, she said it. Here’s her full post:

Formal prayer has been taken out of our schools. How about this idea? Read from the book of Proverbs from the Bible. Proverbs is a book of wisdom. Proverbs is in the Holy Scriptures for Christians and Jews. As for other religions — the wisdom won’t do them any harm. This nation was built on Christian and Jewish values and the Bible… Read More

Because private school vouchers will force taxpayers to fund this kind of nonsense:

Thousands of American school pupils are to be taught that the Loch Ness monster is real – in an attempt by religious teachers to disprove Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Pupils attending privately-run Christian schools in the southern state of Louisiana will learn from textbooks next year, which claim Scotland’s most famous mythological beast is a living creature.

Thousands of children are to receive publicly-funded vouchers enabling them to attend the schools – which follow a strict fundamentalist curriculum.

The Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) programme teaches controversial religious beliefs, aimed at disproving evolution and proving creationism.

Youngsters will be told that if it can be proved that dinosaurs walked the earth at the same time as man, then Darwinism is fatally flawed.

We have already reported about Louisiana’s radical new voucher scheme, which will drain millions of dollars from public schools to pay for tuition at private and religious schools throughout the state. Most of the openings for voucher students will be at small religious schools, not respected but exclusive private schools.

Here’s some of what Louisiana students will be learning — at… Read More

Former Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) member Cynthia Dunbar still seems determined to destroy the most important protection for religious freedom in America: the First Amendment.

As a member of the Texas SBOE in 2010, Dunbar lead successful opposition to requiring that public school students in social studies classrooms learn how the First Amendment protects religious freedom by barring government from promoting one faith perspective over all others. The Constitution does not protect separation of church and state, she argued. Dunbar insisted, instead, that the nation’s Founders actually wanted government to promote religion. Last Saturday Dunbar went even further while speaking at an anti-abortion rally in Ohio. From our friends at Right Wing Watch:

Cynthia Dunbar, a former member of the Texas Board of Education who is now a law professor at Liberty University, in her address to the rally made the specious claim that “94% of the quotes of the Founding Fathers contemporaneous to our nation’s founding came either directly or indirectly from the Bible” and maintained that legislators shouldn’t worry about passing the unconstitutional Heartbeat Bill since “Roe v. Wade is not law at all.” “Guess what legislators,” Dunbar… Read More

Here they go again — another effort to drag churches into partisan politics.

This fall Vision America, a religious-right group based in Texas, is sponsoring “40 Days to Save America” — which calls on Americans to pray, fast and repent for “our national and and personal sins against the God of Heaven.” Rick Scarborough, Vision America’s president, says of the event:

“While we are deeply troubled by the direction in which our nation is headed this is not a political effort. The political problems which beset us are symptoms of a deeper spiritual malaise. In times of national tribulation, our people have often been urged to humbly turn to God in prayer.”

It’s not a political effort? So then why have those 40 days stretch from September 28 to November 6 — election day? And the official list of supporters includes right-wing Republican congressmen and a virtual “who’s who” of religious-right groups that typically back GOP candidates, such as the American Family Association, Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America. Of course this is “a political effort.”

“Our national survival is at stake,” the organizers declare on the “40 Days” website. And in what has… Read More