The U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Texas sodomy law unconstitutional in 2003, but Texas Values ‐‐ the Austin lobby arm of the religious‐right group Liberty Institute ‐‐ apparently still wants gay and lesbian couples to be thrown in prison. In an email to activists Friday, the group characterizes efforts to take the state’s sodomy law off the books as “undermin(ing) our foundational values.” And the extremist group is attacking any Republican who supports that repeal or other measures that treat gay and lesbian Texans with the same rights and dignity as everybody else.

The email ominously asks whether Texas Republican are “supporting the homosexual agenda” and goes on to attack state Rep. Sarah Davis, R‐Houston, for supporting equal rights for gay and lesbian Americans. It then warns that “two priority bills of the homosexual lobby , SB 1316 and SB 538, have both been passed out of committee in the Senate.” SB 538 would repeal the state’s sodomy law, which remains on the books despite the Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling against it a decade ago. SB 1316 would treat the relationships of gay and lesbian teens the same as those ofRead More

Another anti-Sharia measure received a surprise hearing in the House State Affairs Committee on Wednesday, even though there was no advance notice for the hearing. HJR 43 is a constitutional amendment by Dan Flynn, R-Van, stating that a “court of this state may not enforce, consider, or apply any religious or cultural law.”

Strangely, the bill’s author never uttered the words “Sharia” or “Islamic law” when explaining his bill, offering only bland, empty platitudes about respect for Texas law and courts. Rep. Flynn also announced that he was working on a committee substitute that changed his proposal in ways he did not specify. But, adding to the odd presentation, he did not bring any new language to show the committee.

The proposal as filed shares all the flaws of the anti-Sharia bill (SB 1639) that was heard in the Senate a few weeks ago — and then some, since the language of this constitutional amendment is MUCH more broad. Unfortunately, since the committee provided no advance warning for the hearing, they did not hear the full range of opposition that mobilized against SB 1639  in the Senate Business &… Read More

On Wednesday the Texas House Higher Education Committee will consider legislation that could force Texas colleges and universities to allow student organizations to discriminate. House Bill 360 by state Rep. Matt Krause, R-Fort Worth, would withhold state funding from a public or private institution of higher education that requires religious and other student organizations to allow students to participate regardless of those students’ “beliefs or status, including race, gender, and sexual orientation.”

Rep. Krause says his bill is intended to protect the religious freedom of student organizations to exclude those who don’t share their beliefs. Yet his bill could force college campuses to allow — and even fund — student chapters for anti-gay hate groups and racist organizations like the Ku Klux Klan if they claim that their discriminatory practices are based on their religious beliefs.

Click here for more about HB 360. Then call members of the Higher Education Committee (click here for contact information) and urge them to oppose HB 360. Tell them:… Read More

Once again creationists are trying to undermine science education in Texas. On Wednesday the Texas House Higher Education Committee will consider legislation that would bar the state’s colleges and universities from discriminating against or penalizing “in any manner” faculty members or students who engage in research on “intelligent design” — the name creationists have given to their pseudo-scientific attacks on evolution.

This isn’t the first time creationists have targeted the teaching of evolution in Texas colleges and universities. State Rep. Bill Zedler, R-Arlington, proposed the same bill in 2011. It never got a committee hearing. In 2008 the Institute for Creation Research in Dallas lost a bid to get the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to certify its master’s of science education degree program. The ICR then sued the state, but that went nowhere.

Now Rep. Zedler is back with his academic fraud protection legislation, House Bill 285. This year he’ll get his committee hearing. We have a briefing paper on HB 285 here, but the key points are the same as in 2011.… Read More

At a time when the Southern Baptist Convention has fallen completely under the control of religious fundamentalists who seek to use government to promote their own ideological views, it might be hard to remember the long tradition of Baptist support for separation of church and state. Many Baptists still support it. Take, for example, the Rev. Charles Johnson, pastor of Bread Fellowship in Fort Worth. On Tuesday he spoke before the Texas Senate Education Committee against Senate Bill 23, a measure that would provide state tax credits to businesses that fund voucher scholarships for students at private and religious schools. He was testifying on behalf of the Christian Life Commission and the Coalition for Public Schools. TFN is a member of that coalition, which opposes private school voucher schemes.

Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, the author of SB 23 and chairman of the Senate Education Committee, has argued repeatedly that his bill doesn’t create a government-funded voucher program that subsidizes tuition at nonpublic schools. But Rev. Johnson clearly and correctly explained that the bill’s tax breaks for businesses would take money that would otherwise go to public schools and send it to private… Read More