With Christmas celebrations on the brink of extinction in Texas, the Texas House intervened yesterday by passing the “Merry Christmas bill” to ensure public schools remain a welcome place for Jesus Santa.

Santa’s attorney — and lobbyist for the religious-right group Texas Values — was at the Capitol to whip votes and remind us all of the true meaning of Christmas. Check out this Twitter post from Jim Henson of the Texas Politics Project:

RT @kathygranttx: Every day is Christmas & every night is New Year’s Eve at the #txlege twitter.com/KathyGrantTx/s…

— Jim Henson (@jamesrhenson) May 9, 2013

The bill now awaits a vote in the Senate.… 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

UPDATE, 4:40 p.m.: Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s office just released a formal opinion calling the Pflugerville Independent School District’s policy of offering domestic partners of district employees access to health insurance benefits a violation of the Texas Constitution.

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Just what in the world are they thinking?

Earlier this month the House Public Education Committee considered legislation (House Bill 1568) to reduce funding to any school district that makes health insurance or other benefits available to the domestic partners of district employees. The Pflugerville Independent School District just north of Austin has adopted such a policy, although the employee has to cover the full cost of his or her partner’s insurance premiums. Religious-right groups — predictably — have pitched a hissy fit and argue that providing access to benefits for domestic partners violates the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

The Texas attorney general has not yet issued a formal opinion on whether such policies really do violate that constitutional ban. Even so, the original version of HB 1568 was bad enough — it would undermine local control, was out of step with growing support among Texans for such common sense policies, and represented yet… Read More

On Thursday, the House Public Education Committee voted 7-3 to approve HB 1057 by Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, making it eligible soon for consideration by the full House.

But the version of the bill the committee passed bears almost no resemblance to the bill as originally filed, or its Senate companion (SB 521) that passed out of the Senate Education committee in early March. Supporters of the bills, as well as the lawmakers promoting them, have repeatedly made their intentions clear: first, create an onerous parental “opt-in” requirement for any student who wishes to participate in sex education instruction (thereby ensuring lots of students would be excluded); and second, ban any entities affiliated with an abortion provider (i.e. Planned Parenthood) from providing sex education instruction in Texas schools.

Strangely, both those problematic proposals had disappeared in the committee substitute for HB 1057 that turned up in the Public Education Committee yesterday. And all that was left, after an amendment by Rep. Mike Villarreal, D-San Antonio, was this rather simple addition to Texas’ statute governing sex education:

“(6) [course materials and instruction] may not teach or present information relating… 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