What happens when public schools cross the line by promoting personal religious views in their classrooms? One Texas parent -- a religious studies scholar -- explains what happened to her family in this cross-post (with permission) from Scribalishess. Susan M. Pigott is a professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at a small, liberal arts university in west Texas. She's married and has two amazing kids. Her family also includes five cats and two dogs, and her favorite hobbies are writing, photography, and geeky tech gadgets. The views expressed in this post are her own. *** I remember driving to Chili’s with my hands clenched on the steering wheel, knuckles turning white. It wasn’t the Abilene traffic (though I could write a blog post about Abilene drivers . . .) No. It was the story that was slowly, painfully unfolding as my son spoke. I was gently (I think) nudging him to reveal more and more about his day in fifth grade at a public elementary school. I was so angry by the time we reached Chili’s that it’s a wonder we didn’t get kicked out of the restaurant. We were heading to…… Read More

We told you Monday that a religious-right group’s voter guide reveals that several Republican candidates in Texas State Board of Education elections this year think government shouldn’t be responsible for making sure all children get an education. The same candidates also support shifting tax dollars from public to private schools. So it might not be surprising to hear that their hostility to public education is matched by their disdain for science and separation of church and state.

According to answers in the voter guide, District 7 incumbent David Bradley, R-Beaumont Buna, and Fort Worth challengers Eric Mahroum and Lady Theresa Thombs in the District 11 Republican primary all support teaching “intelligent design”/creationism in public schools. They also want biology textbooks to teach creationist arguments about so-called “weaknesses” of evolution. District 11 incumbent Pat Hardy, R-Fort Worth, indicated that she opposes teaching both “intelligent design” and those discredited “weaknesses” arguments.

All of those candidates, including Hardy, say the Ten Commandments should be displayed in public school buildings, that marriage is a union of one man and one woman and that “no government has the authority to alter this definition.”) They also “strongly agree” that “the more people live by… Read More

In what must thrill the hearts of zealots like David Barton who have spent their careers trying to drag houses of worship into partisan politics, the Washington Post reports:

Even as polls show Americans broadly oppose electioneering from the pulpit, a new report by a group of faith leaders working closely with Capitol Hill argues for ending the decades-old ban on explicit clergy endorsements.

The report being given Wednesday to Sen. Charles E. Grassley — the Iowa Republican whose office for years has been probing potential abuses by tax-exempt groups — comes as the ban has become a culture-war flashpoint.

The religious right has been trying to politicize congregations for decades now. The campaign to turn pulpits into campaign props will likely gather speed.

Even so, we’re encouraged by an opposition report from other faith leaders. According to the same Washington Post article, that report explains that the ban on electioneering “has served to protect houses of worship in America from government regulation and from divisive partisan politics dividing the church communities.”

The religious right might be willing to risk throwing out those protections, but most Americans are not.… Read More

TFN Insider is pleased to present this guest post from Rev. Beth Ellen Cooper of Northwoods Unitarian Universalist Church in The Woodlands north of Houston. Rev. Cooper participated in TFN’s clergy gathering in March in support of women’s access to birth control and state funding for family planning. She blogs regularly for the Houston Chronicle at Keep the Faith. Rev. Cooper also posted on TFN Insider about her experience in being lectured on morality by legislative staffers at the Texas Capitol.

Last Thursday, I attended a meeting of the Montgomery County Texas Eagle Forum, which featured reports on the latest special sessions of the Texas Legislature from state representatives Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands; Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe; and Cecile Bell Jr., R-Magnolia. This forum of ultra-conservatives was a proverbial lion’s den for a religious progressive like myself. But I am firm believer that there is no progress without dialogue, and no dialogue is possible if you don’t show up to ask the questions.

Besides. They sent an invitation to my church. It seemed rude not to accept.

So I went, in clerical collar, prepared to… Read More

Following is even more proof that self-styled “historian” David Barton is little more than a propaganda artist: now he’s rewriting his own history. Yet Barton’s distorted versions of history are still getting traction on the political right, as Republican state Sen. Dan Patrick of Houston demonstrated last week.

Let’s start with Barton.

The president of Texas-based WallBuilders, an organization dedicated to rewriting American history and rejecting separation of church and state, has faced a number of embarrassments lately. Last year a religious publisher halted publication of Barton’s book about Thomas Jefferson, citing factual errors throughout. That came just weeks after Christian conservative scholars panned Barton’s work. Earlier this year writer Chris Rodda discovered that Barton had used a Louis L’Amour novel as a source for historical claims about 1800s America. We also caught Barton spreading falsehoods, including his false claim last fall that President Obama had ignored “God” in his four Thanksgiving proclamations.

Now it looks like Barton is trying to paper over one of his biggest blunders: bogus quotations he has in the past attributed to some of America’s Founders and various other important figures in our nation’s… Read More