Who is behind efforts to toss out of office two Pflugerville Independent School District board members who support giving the domestic partners of district employees access to health insurance? Pflugerville is located in Travis County, and the school district includes parts of north Austin. Various religious-right groups and activists have criticized Pflugerville school board members for supporting the domestic partners policy last year, and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on April 29 issued a formal opinion charging that the policy violates the state Constitution. The new board could decide whether and how to revise the district’s policy to meet any constitutional objections.
The day after the attorney general released his opinion, the Texas Pastor Council circulated by email a Pflugerville pastor’s letter to members of his congregation. You can read the full letter below. In his letter, Senior Pastor Dr. Steve Washburn tells members of Pflugerville’s First Baptist Church that God wants them to “vote for the candidates who best represent and defend the Lord’s moral values as He reveals them in Scripture.” His letter goes on to demand that “we are to vote for the candidates who oppose” giving “immoral sexual partners” access to the district’s health insurance benefits. Washburn then identifies the four candidates for the two contested seats in the May 11 election and tells readers to do their own research on where the candidates stand on the issue. Of course, it’s no secret in Pflugerville that incumbents Mario Acosta (Place 3) and Carol Fletcher (Place 5) voted for the policy.
As we’ve already said, the Pflugerville election has become a referendum on equality. And the election is important not just for Pflugerville ISD. Its results could influence how other school districts and local governments approach the issue of benefits for employees and their families. The Texas Freedom Network has proudly endorsed Acosta and Fletcher for courageously choosing to treat all of the district’s employees with equality and dignity. Washburn’s letter, on the other hand, is yet another disturbing example of the religious right using faith as a political weapon to divide our communities.
The election is this Saturday, May 11. Click here for information on polling locations.
Following is Washburn’s letter (as circulated by the Texas Pastor Council):
Dear First Baptist Pflugerville Family,
If you live in the Pflugerville Independent School District, I want to call your attention to something of great importance that needs your personal and immediate attention.
Our School Board election is going on RIGHT NOW. Early voting started yesterday and will go through next Tuesday, May 7. Actual Election Day is on Saturday, May 11th. Times and voting locations can be found on the attachment.
EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US NEEDS TO VOTE IN THIS ELECTION! (Preferably during this early voting period.) We need to vote in two races: Place #3 and Place #5.
In any election, there is only one question we need to answer: “For which candidates does GOD want me to vote?” As followers of Jesus, we vote for HIS priorities, not our priorities. That means we are always, first and foremost – “Christian Moral Values Voters.” We vote for the candidates who best represent and defend the Lord’s moral values as He reveals them in Scripture.
Although there are a number of issues being discussed by all candidates, our primary concern revolves around the previous decision of the PISD School Board to extend health insurance benefits to “domestic partners.” This provision allows employees of PISD to include immoral sexual partners (heterosexual and homosexual) in their medical insurance benefit plan as though they were legal spouses. We are to vote for the candidates in Place #3 and Place #5 who will oppose this decision. If you are unclear where the various candidates stand on this issue, please call a friend who may be more familiar, or research your decision on-line.
Candidates for Place #3: Mario Acosta vs Tony Hanson
Candidates for Place #5: Carol Fletcher vs Lance Sandlin
For followers of Jesus, not voting is NOT an option. Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth [salt prevents decay]. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men. You are the light of the world [light guides in darkness]. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden… Let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:13-16).
As your pastor, let me again tell you how proud I am to serve a group of individuals so determined to glorify our Lord! Our collective voice will be heard across Texas and throughout the Kingdom of God!
Dr. Steve Washburn
Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Pflugerville